NASA is launching a study of UFOs as part of a new push toward high-risk, high-impact science.
The space agency announced Thursday that it is setting up an independent team to see how much information is publicly available on the matter and how much more is needed to understand the unexplained sightings. The experts will consider how to use all this information in the future.
NASA's science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, admitted that the traditional scientific community may see NASA as a kind of selling out by venturing into the controversial topic, but he strongly disagrees.
Zurbuchen said during the National Academy of Sciences webcast that we are not shying away from reputational risk. Our belief is that the biggest challenge of these phenomena is that it is a data-poor field. NASA considers this a first step in trying to explain mysterious sightings in the sky, known as UAPs, or unidentified aerial phenomena.
The study will start in the fall and last nine months, costing no more than $100,000. It will be completely open, with no classified military data being used.
NASA said the team will be led by the astrophysicist David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation. Spergel said in a news conference that the UAPs will likely have multiple explanations, which is the only preconceived notion going into the study.
Spergel said that we have to approach all these questions with a sense of humility. I spent most of my career as a cosmologist. We don't know what makes up 95 percent of the universe. There are things that we don't understand.