The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has selected 16 people to participate in the agency’s independent study team on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP), with the team beginning its research work on Oct. 24.

NASA first announced its intent to join in the hunt for UAPs – or as they are more commonly known, unidentified flying objects (UFO) – in June 2022, with the aim to bring a more scientific perspective to the discussion.

The study effort will focus on identifying available data, how best to collect future data, and how NASA can use that data to move the scientific understanding of UAPs forward.

“NASA has brought together some of the world’s leading scientists, data and artificial intelligence practitioners, aerospace safety experts, all with a specific charge, which is to tell us how to apply the full focus of science and data to UAP,” said Daniel Evans, the assistant deputy associate administrator for research at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in a press release. Evans is also the NASA official responsible for orchestrating the study.

Over the course of nine months, the independent study team will lay the groundwork for future studies on the nature of UAPs for NASA and other organizations.

Specifically, the team will identify how data gathered by civilian government entities, commercial data, and data from other sources can potentially be analyzed to shed light on UAPs. It will then recommend a roadmap for potential UAP data analysis by the agency going forward.

A full report containing the team’s findings will be released to the public in mid-2023.

The members of NASA’s independent study team on UAPs are: David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation; Anamaria Berea, associate professor of Computational and Data Science at George Mason University; Federica Bianco, professor at the University of Delaware and a Senior Scientist at the Multi-city Urban Observatory; Paula Bontempi, biological oceanographer and dean for the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island; Reggie Brothers, operating partner at AE Industrial Partners; Jen Buss, CEO of the Potomac Institute of Policy Studies; Nadia Drake, freelance science journalist and contributing writer at National Geographic; Mike Gold, executive vice president of Civil Space and External Affairs; David Grinspoon, senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute; Scott Kelly, former NASA astronaut, test pilot, fighter pilot, and retired U.S. Navy captain; Matt Mountain, president of The Association of Universities for Research and Astronomy; Warren Randolph, deputy executive director of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Accident Investigation and Prevention for Aviation Safety department; Walter Scott, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Maxar; Joshua Semeter, professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Center for Space Physics at Boston University; Karlin Toner, acting executive director of the FAA’s Office of Aviation Policy and Plans; and Shelley Wright, associate professor of physics at the University of California.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.