NASA held its first public UFO hearing. Here are 5 key takeaways

NASA on Wednesday, May 31, 2023, held its first public UFO hearing investigating UAPs, or unidentified anomalous phenomena.
NASA on Wednesday, May 31, 2023, held its first public UFO hearing investigating UAPs, or unidentified anomalous phenomena. | Department of Defense via Associated Press / Illustration by Michelle Budge

NASA held its first-ever public hearing on UFOs Wednesday, where members of a NASA task force discussed their findings on UAPs, or unidentified anomalous phenomena.

The UAP independent study team, which was created in June of last year, covered a range of topics in the public meeting, from unexplained sightings to optical illusions that trick pilots into believing they’ve seen a UFO.

The group put particular emphasis on the need for the government to collect higher-quality data in order for the task force to better investigate the unexplained events, The New York Times reported.

Here is a summary of what the task force discussed, with five key takeaways from the meeting:

Defense Department is investigating over 800 cases

Sean Kirkpatrick, a Pentagon official, announced that the Defense Department has been investigating 800 reports of unidentified flying objects spanning from 1996 to the present, according to NBC News.

However, most of those reports have “mundane” explanations, with only 2% to 5% that could be described as “possibly really anomalous,” Kirkpatrick said.

Some of the more “mundane” reports of UFOs were found to be optical illusions. Scott Kelly, a pilot and former astronaut, recalled flying with his co-pilot when one of his colleagues “was convinced we flew by a UFO.”

“I didn’t see it. We turned around, we went to look at it, it turns out it was Bart Simpson — a balloon,” Kelly stated, per BBC News.

Newly released footage shows UAP in the Middle East

Some footage obtained by the UAP task force remains unexplainable.

Kirkpatrick shared one such example with never-before-seen footage of a sighting of a “spherical UAP” in the Middle East in 2022.

The footage shows a small metallic orb appearing to fly through the sky. “It is going to be virtually impossible to fully identify that just based off of that video,” Kirkpatrick said in a video posted to Twitter by Politico’s defense editor, Dave Brown.

Data collection needs to improve

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the public hearing was the emphasis on the need for better data collection on UFOs in order to explain them.

David Spergel, chair of the UAP study team, stated, per, “Current data-collection efforts regarding UAPs are unsystematic and fragmented across various agencies, often using instruments uncalibrated for scientific data collection.”

Additionally, the stigma surrounding UFOs prevents pilots and other individuals from reporting unexplained sightings.

“One of our goals is to remove the stigma,” Spergel said, “because there is a need for high quality data to address important questions about UAPs.”

‘No conclusive evidence’ of extraterrestrial origins

Though some of the UFO sightings remained unexplained, members of the panel emphasized that there is no evidence of the sightings being related to extraterrestrial life forms.

“To make the claim that we’ve seen something that is evidence of nonhuman intelligence, it would require extraordinary evidence. And we have not seen that. I think that’s important to make clear,” Spergel stated, per

Report will be released in July

NASA announced that the UAP independent study team will release a report of its findings by the end of July, in which the group will share its initial findings and make recommendations to the government, the Times reported.