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NASA plans to begin a study of UFOs — and they don't care if other members of the science community agree with their decision.
On Thursday, the space agency announced they will form a team to examine "observations of events that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena."
NASA's science mission chief Thomas Zurbuchen, who shared the news during a speech at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, called it "high-risk, high-impact" research, per The Washington Post.
"We are not shying away from reputational risk," Zurbuchen said at the event, per the Associated Press, acknowledging that some may see this move as NASA "kind of selling out."
The study will focus on identifying available data, best practices for collecting data in the future, and how NASA can use that information to gain a deeper understanding of UAPs, or unidentified aerial phenomena, according to the space agency's press release.
Astrophysicist David Spergel, who is president of the Simons Foundation in New York City, will lead the independent nine-month study, set to start early this fall.
"Given the paucity of observations, our first task is simply to gather the most robust set of data that we can," Spergel said in statement. "We will be identifying what data – from civilians, government, non-profits, companies – exists, what else we should try to collect, and how to best analyze it."
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NASA considers UAPs of interest for both national security and air safety.
"Establishing which events are natural provides a key first step to identifying or mitigating such phenomena, which aligns with one of NASA's goals to ensure the safety of aircraft," the space agency said.
NASA's announcement comes after Congress held its first hearing about UFOs in half a century last month. While testifying before a House Intelligence subcommittee, Ronald Moultrie, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said they were encouraging military officials to report anything unusual they see in the skies, according to the AP.
"We want to know what's out there as much as you want to know what's out there," Moultrie said. "We get the questions not just from you. We get it from family and we get them night and day."
The Pentagon also announced in November plans to create the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group to "detect, identify and attribute objects of interests in Special Use Airspace" and "assess and mitigate any associated threats to safety of flight and national security."