After a year of study, NASA released a new report looking into the phenomena of unexplained anomalous phenomena (UAP) — or, what the rest of us call UFOs — and how it is studying them. Although the report focuses on the work of the civilian agency, it also offers details into the work that the Department of Defense’s All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office is doing to investigate UAPs, and what military information is helping to do so. 

The AARO is the overall lead government entity for investigating UAPs and has been since it was established last year. However, outside of its own reports or presentations before Congress, the office has been relatively quiet on its work and the wider effort to explain UAPs. The NASA report highlights not only where that agency is at with its work but also the wider government structure when it comes to searching for and solving the mystery of UAPs.

Before anyone asks, the report says that there is no sign of any extraterrestrial life or spaceships. At the press conference on Thursday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson did not rule out the possibility that life exists elsewhere in the universe. However, he denied that the U.S. was hiding aliens or alien craft. “Show me the evidence,” he said. 

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Although the report, conducted by an independent study team over the course of a year, notes that most UAP instances can be explained by known phenomena, in many instances, NASA and other agencies need more data than they currently have in order to resolve the matters. That is a challenge in some regards. Certain sightings can happen in areas, such as cities, where there is high background noise or clutter. In other cases, the tools being used to collect the data are not “optimized” for studying that data. Meanwhile, in military cases, the use of classified technology to collect data, even innocuous imagery or video, presents an additional barrier to study. 

As a result, the report notes, various agencies are trying to modify or adjust their data collection to better look for the parameters needed to investigate UAPs. The AARO is currently working to see what explainable, known phenomena such as weather conditions or balloons look like to military sensors, so it can better isolate anomalies.

The report also noted that “[…] the airspace near military sites is a challenging place to search for UAP: human aircraft, drones, balloons, and other objects, are all significant sources of background [clutter].” The military has said that it is concerned about any such UAP instance near military installations, viewing them as a security issue.

Federal system with NASA, AARO in letting civilians report. Right now the military is concerned with and seeking reports from service members as well as other government agencies such as NASA. The recently launched website, where the AARO shows declassified and resolved cases, currently does not have a way for civilians to share their own UAP sightings. NASA’s report said that civilian reports will help provide data, but a federal system for taking those reports needs to be established. 

There has been greater interest in and resources devoted to examining UAPs following increased transparency from the U.S. military on sightings made by service members. Those have included images and videos taken by aviators and pilots, which were made public starting in 2017. 

During the conference, NASA also revealed that Mark McInerney, who had worked as a liaison with the Pentagon on the matter of UAPs, was the agency’s lead in investigating the unidentified anomalies.

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