UFOs are no longer a fringe subject of interest. Unidentified flying objects—or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP), as they’re officially known—have received serious attention from the U.S. government in recent years. Now, NASA is organizing a task force that will determine how the agency studies such incidents in the future.
Following the announcement of the panel in June, the space agency recently shared who will be serving on it, CNN reports. The 16 members offer expertise in a variety of fields, such as astrobiology, oceanography, planetary science, and data science. David Spergel, the former head of Princeton University’s astrophysics department, will serve as chairman. Scott Kelly, the retired astronaut who spent a year onboard the ISS, is also joining the team.
Over the course of nine months, the group will study unclassified UAP data in the public domain. By examining the unexplained sightings, the panel plans to come up with “a roadmap of potential UAP data analysis by the agency going forward.” Their first report will be published some time in mid-2023.
The new initiative may sound like science fiction, but NASA emphasizes that it’s not an endorsement of alien conspiracy theories. The agency made their position clear during the June announcement, stating, “There is no evidence UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin.” NASA has numerous incentives for studying UAPs beyond discovering life beyond Earth, including keeping U.S. airspace secure.
This new effort is distinct from the Pentagon’s recent inquiry into unidentified aerial phenomena. Like NASA, the Pentagon has also avoided pinning such sightings on non-terrestrial origins, but as one official put it, they’re willing to “go wherever the data takes us.”