(The Hill) — NASA announced Thursday that the agency has appointed a director of research to study UFOs — or what the U.S. government calls unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAPs).
Nicola Fox, the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, confirmed they have appointed a person to the role, but declined to release their name, only noting the individual has worked for the agency “for a while.”
“They are being tasked with developing and overseeing the implementation of NASA’s vision for UAP research,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said of the newly appointed director during a press conference on Thursday. “We will use NASA’s expertise to work with other agencies to analyze UAP.”
Nelson added that the agency will use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to “search the skies for anomalies” and vowed to share their findings in a transparent manner.
The announcement follows the release of a new report from an independent study panel tasked with looking into how NASA can assist ongoing government efforts to gain information on the intelligence of UAPs.
The agency head called the report the agency’s first “concrete action” to seriously study UAPs, adding he hopes the report will transition the conversation about UAPs from “sensationalism to science.”
“At NASA, it’s in our DNA to explore — and to ask why things are the way they are,” he said.
Lawmakers in recent months have expressed frustration with the lack of available information about unknown objects flying in restricted U.S. Air Space.
The House Oversight Committee heard from witnesses in July who pushed for greater transparency in how the government handles reports of UAPs. The witnesses accused the Pentagon of withholding information related to the unidentified objects and called for centralized reporting databases moving forward.
In the report’s recommendations, the panel noted the detection of UAPs often lack the necessary data to make conclusions, and NASA thus must play a “prominent role in the whole-of-government” efforts.
“At present, the detection of UAP is often serendipitous, captured by sensors that were not designed or calibrated for this purpose, and which lack comprehensive metadata,” the panel wrote. “Coupled with incomplete data archiving and curation, this means the origin of numerous UAP remain uncertain.”
The researchers argued that new systematic data-gathering techniques needed to be used in combination with AI and machine learning to further UAP research.
“NASA is uniquely positioned to contribute a robust and systematic approach to studying UA, furthering its mission of advancing scientific knowledge, technical expertise, and exploration,” the report reads.
The panel — made up of 16 expects across different disciplines — also recommended the agency to utilize its existing assets to observe the local environmental conditions associated with UAPs to determine if there is a connection.