Jun 1, 2023

NASA Holds First Public Meeting on UFOs Transcript

NASA Holds First Public Meeting on UFOs Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsNASANASA Holds First Public Meeting on UFOs Transcript

NASA’s independent study team on unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UFOs, holds a public meeting before publishing a report this summer. Read the transcript here.

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Dan Evans (01:22):

Hello, good morning and welcome. My name is Dan Evans and as the designated federal official for NASA’s Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Independent Study team, I’d like to call this meeting to order and introduce the panelists. In the back row, we have Nadia Drake, Paula Bontempi, Federica Bianco, David Grinspoon, Karlin Toner, Josh Sumeta and Jennifer Buss. When in the front row we have Walter Scott, Warren Randolph, Reggie Brothers, Shelley Wright, Scott Kelly, Anamaria Berea, Mike Gold and David Spergel who serves as chair of the team.

I have a few opening remarks but to begin, I’d like to start with the following. First, I’d like to pay tribute to the life of retired Air Force Master Sergeant Sam Sato, who is being laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery today. Following his active duty service, Sam served as the intelligence collection manager for the National Intelligence Manager for Aviation where he played a critical role in UAP analysis. All of us at NASA offer our condolences to Sam’s family, friends and colleagues.

Second, I’d like to take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to our distinguished panel of experts for their unwavering commitment and dedication. It’s disheartening to note that several of them have been subjected to online abuse due to their decision to participate on this panel. A NASA security team is actively addressing this issue. We at NASA are acutely aware of the considerable public interest in UAP, however, it’s critical to understand any form of harassment towards our panelists only serves to detract from the scientific process which requires an environment of respect and openness. Now, every member of our team is a recognized authority in their respective field and they have our unequivocal support. NASA stands in solidarity with them advocating for a respectful discourse that befits their expertise and the significance of their work. Thanks.

Now, in recent years, the subject of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena nowadays termed Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena or UAPs has captured the attention of the public, the scientific community and the government alike. And it’s now our collective responsibility to investigate these occurrences with the rigorous scientific scrutiny that they deserve. NASA administrator, Senator Bill Nelson, believes that understanding UAPs is vital for several reasons which is why he directed this study. First and foremost, it provides an opportunity for us to expand our understanding of the world around us. As an organization dedicated to exploring the unknown, this work is in our DNA. Secondly, this study aims to enhance situational awareness. The presence of UAPs raises concerns about the safety of our skies, and it’s this nation’s obligation to determine whether these phenomena pose any potential risks to airspace safety. By understanding the nature of UAPs, we can ensure that our skies remain a safe space for all.

In order to achieve these goals, it is crucial that we employ a scientific lens for our UAP work. It’s precisely this rigorous evidence-based approach that allows one to separate fact from fiction. This team is comprised of experts from various disciplines which allows them to approach this work from multiple perspective, and we have greatly benefited from that collective expertise. Now, why do we value a scientific approach? It’s because science is built on evidence, it thrives on scrutiny, it demands reproducibility… I can’t, sorry. And above all, objectivity. When we approach UAPs from a scientific perspective, we do not come in with an agenda, we come in needing a roadmap. Indeed, the primary objective of this incredible team of experts is not to go back and look at grainy footage of UAPs, but rather to give us a roadmap to guide us for future analysis. And this is the very scientific method that NASA holds true to its heart.

Scientific research is intended to be publicly available and transparent, and NASA prides itself on making its data and images available to the public to learn and explore on their own. By holding public meetings like this one, we aim for open and honest dialogue with the public. We recognize that public interest in UAPs is high and that the demand for answers is strong, conversations like this one are the first step to reducing the stigma surrounding UAP reporting. Moreover, transparency is essential for fostering trust between NASA, the public and the scientific community. In order to do things right, we must work together, pulling our resources, our knowledge and our expertise. And by maintaining open channels of communication, we can facilitate collaboration, encourage the exchange of ideas and ensure that our work is as robust as possible. Not only that, but our commitment to openness is in itself a reflection of NASA’s commitment to scientific integrity.

As an organization dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, it’s NASA’s responsibility to be honest and forthright and to follow the science. And by being transparent in our work, we uphold our dedication to scientific excellence. The meeting today represents the first deliberative actions that the team has taken, and so it’s important to keep in mind that they still have several months of work ahead of them. Their final report will be released this summer and we will publish it on our website. NASA believes that the study of Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena represents an exciting step forward in our quest to uncover the mysteries of the world around us. By embracing a scientific lens, we ensure that our work is rigorous and reliable, and by valuing transparency and openness, we can foster trust and collaboration with the public. Simply put, this is why we do what we do. Now, before I introduce Nikki, there are a few administrative matters to attend to.

Firstly, the Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Independent Study team has been established in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, known as FACA, its parent committee is the Earth Science Advisory Committees. As such, this group does not report to the government. It reports to the Earth Science Advisory Committee who debate the recommendations and formally transmit this team’s report to the government. Next, our deliberative committee meetings such as this one are open to the public. And also after this panel was convened, the National Defense Authorization Act known as the NDAA changed the A in UAP to be Anomalous. Accordingly, this panel’s remit was expanded to encompass not just aerial UAP. However, the majority of UAP sightings to date have been in the aerial domain so it’s fair to say that this panel’s focus is on the aerial aspect of anomalous.

Now, in compliance with the FACA federal statute four more minutes have been taken throughout the meeting today, and these meetings and these minutes are for the public record, and hence, all presentations and discussions and comments by the committee members should be considered to be on the record. Each member of this UAP study team has been appointed because of their specific subject matter expertise as individuals, and hence, each member is subject to federal ethics laws. This category of appointment is called Special Government Employees or SGEs, for our non-government members and our two federal employees serve as regular government employees known as RGEs.

Now to the panel, all members on this committee should remember to recuse themself if a topic comes up in which you have a potential conflict of interest between your financial interests, including those of your employer and matters that we’re discussing. And then finally, panel, if you have any ethics questions, please see me separately. And if needed, I’ll put you in contact with a NASA ethics attorney.

Thanks for bearing with me. I’d now like to turn to the amazing Dr. Nicky Fox, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Over to you, Nicky.

Nicola Fox (10:08):

Thank you, Dan. And thank you to all the members of NASA’s UAP Independent Study team, your selfless dedication to the pursuit of knowledge is just so commendable. And I want to thank you the audience for tuning in today to watch our first deliberative meeting of NASA’s Independent Study team on evaluating and categorizing Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena. Before I begin though, I really do want to double down on Dan’s words that it is really disheartening to hear of the harassment that our panelists have faced online all because they’re studying this topic. NASA stands behind our panelists and we do not tolerate abuse. Harassment only leads to further stigmatization of the UAP field significantly hindering the scientific progress and discouraging others to study this important subject matter. Your harassment also obstructs the public’s right to knowledge. Our panelists are leading experts in the scientific, aeronautics and data analytics communities. We are very lucky to have them on board to share their invaluable insights to inform NASA on what possible data could be collected in the future, and how it can be collected to help us better understand the nature of UAP.

The UAP independent study was commissioned to create a roadmap on how to use the tools of science to evaluate and categorize the nature of UAPs going forward. This roadmap, of course, will help the federal government obtain usable data to explain the nature of future UAPs. Transparency, openness and scientific integrity are pinnacle to NASA’s mission, they’re at the forefront of this public meeting and have been throughout the team’s seven months on this study. As Dan noted, this is a working meeting and so the public will have the incredible opportunity to witness the process of science in action. At NASA, we lead the world in exploration and are committed to rigorous scientific inquiry. The nature of science is to better understand the unknown, and to do that our scientists need data.

Right now, there is a very limited number of high quality observations and data curation of UAP. The existing data available from eyewitness reports are often muddled and cannot provide conclusive evidence that supports UAP recognition and analysis. Additionally, an object’s background can complicate the data further and render it unusable due to conventional objects that can mimic or overshadow the phenomena completely such as commercial aircraft, military equipment, the weather and ionospheric phenomena like auroras. This lack of high quality data make it impossible to draw scientific conclusions on the nature of UAP. Now, this team has used unclassified data from civilian government entities, commercial data and data from other sources to inform their recommendations. And as Dan noted, they will be published in a public report that comes out this summer.

I want to emphasize that there is really great benefit to studying unclassified data rather than classified data for this study. First, Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena sightings themselves are not classified, it’s often the sensor platform that is classified. And you can think of it, if a fighter jet took a picture of the Statue of Liberty, then that image would be classified not because of the subject in the picture but because of the sensors on the plane. Second, unclassified data make it possible for our team to communicate openly to advance our understanding of UAP, not only with each other but across the scientific community and to the public. This ensures a clear and transparent pipeline of information that can be built upon through generations to expand our understanding.

This study relies on open data. Everything we use at NASA is open and anyone can look at these records, so I invite you to visit our open data portal at data.nasa.gov to comb through our tens of thousands of data sets that are free and fully accessible to the public. Additionally, please check out data.gov/open/data for a great overview of where you can find the archives for our science and mission data sites. I am very, very much looking forward to hearing the deliberations put forth today from our distinguished panel of experts.

Thank you so much for being here.

David Spergle (14:52):

Thank you, Dr. Fox. Before you got a little bit… I just want to open up to questions. Let me start with a question on the NASA data. I think one of the important things that we’ll be looking at with other data sets and events is the data is not very well calibrated. Can you say just a little bit about how NASA goes through calibrating some of its earth science data?

Nicola Fox (15:15):

Oh, yes. Very, very rigorous earth science… All of our data sets not just earth science, go through extremely rigorous calibration. We don’t release anything until it’s really perfect. We have quick look data that is marked as Quick Look Data, you can use it to get preliminary findings but wait for the really nicely cleaned up data. A lot of rigorous protocol in putting out our data to make sure it is perfect.

David Spergle (15:46):

Do we have any other questions from the panel?

Nicola Fox (15:51):

All right. Thank you so much.

David Spergle (15:53):

Doctor, thank you.

Dan Evans (15:55):

Okay. [inaudible 00:15:56]

David Spergle (16:08):

Hi, I’m David David Spergel. I’m the chair of the panel. And when I look at our charge, we have a lengthy charge but at the high level summary of it is how can NASA contribute to understanding the nature of UAPs? And our role here is not to resolve the nature of these events but rather to give NASA guidance to provide a roadmap of how it can contribute in this area. After my opening remarks, we’ll hear from Sean Kirkpatrick from the AARO, and it’s the AARO that’s charged with leading the whole of government UAP effort and they’ve already issued some preliminary reports on some of the events. NASA’s role is to use its unique capabilities and its role as a civilian agency interacting with the scientific community in an open and transparent manner.

And as Dr. Fox emphasized, the Defense and Intelligence Agency data on UAP are often classified primarily because of how the data is collected not because what’s in the data. If a camera on an F-35 took a picture of a bird, it’s classified. If a spy satellite takes an image of a balloon, and we’ve had in the news some balloons recently, that data is classified. And that’s because of a desire to not reveal our technical capabilities to others nations. NASA on the other hand, operates in a mode where it’s collecting data in the open, and the NASA data is available on websites and is well characterized. And because of NASA being the civilian agency studying air and space, it has a special role to play. And I see our charge primarily as helping identify for NASA ways it could play that role and contribute to understanding.

We’ve gone through a preliminary data collection stage. And to summarize some of the things that we’ve learned, the current data collection efforts regarding UAPs are unsystematic and fragmented across various agencies, often using instruments uncalibrated for scientific data collection. And if I think about the data that people have out there, it’s in many ways what we’d like to think of as citizen science. But again, it is uncalibrated data, poorly characterized, not well curated, and we face looking through this data a significant background. A background of many of these events are commercial aircraft, civilian and military drones, weather and research balloons, military equipment, ionospheric phenomenon. We need to characterize when the date is taken when it sees events like this first.

The current existing data and eyewitness reports alone are insufficient to provide conclusive evidence about the nature and origin of every UAP event, they’re often uninformative due to lack of quality control and data curation. To understand UAP better, targeted data collection, thorough data curation and robust analyses are needed. Such an approach will help to discern unexplained UAP sightings, but even then there’s no guarantee that all sightings will be explained. Another challenge in this area is what we call stigma, there’s a real stigma among people reporting events. And despite NASA’s extensive efforts to reduce the stigma, the origin of the UAPs remain unclear and we feel many events remain unreported. Commercial pilots for example, are very reluctant to report anomalies.

And one of our goals in having NASA play a role is to remove stigma and get high quality data. In fact, if I were to summarize in one line what I feel we’ve learned, it’s we need high quality data. And as a research scientist whose work has been primarily focused in cosmology, I would say the lesson of my career has been you want to address important questions, you need high quality data with well calibrated instruments. Let me now introduce the agenda. We’re going to hear from a number of experts who are presenting up to lunch. We’ll then break at 12:00 for lunch from 12:00 to 1230. At 12:30 we’ll resume and we’ll have presentations by members of the panel on some preliminary ideas for discussion, and that will be a period of time for some open discussion by the panel. We will then have a Q&A session based on questions that have been sent-in in advance to the website, and we’ve curated those questions and group them together and we’ll be going through a lot of those questions and then we’ll summarize. And then over the subsequent couple of months, we’ll work on putting together the report. And as Dan said, we’re aiming to make a public report available we hope by the end of July. Now, let me turn this over to Sean Kirkpatrick.

Dan Evans (22:03):

Oh, hang on. We’ll do a couple of Q&As [inaudible 00:22:06]

David Spergle (22:05):

Oh, we’ll do some Q&As for me?

Dan Evans (22:07):

Yeah. Yeah, from the panel.

David Spergle (22:07):

Okay. Any questions from the panel? Thoughts? Yes. Get the mic.

Dr. Paula Bontempi (22:16):

Thank you. Yeah. One of the things I think Dr. Fox said was looking at the release of data, very important for our study, when it’s high quality. And you have also commented that data are not always perfect when we’re doing certain studies. I wonder if you could shed some light on the difference between the application of certain data to certain scientific challenges.

David Spergle (22:53):

When you look at your camera, your camera is often designed to take an image in the daytime and might not be optimized for nighttime imaging, or if you take something that astronomers are very familiar with is we design our telescopes to work at night. And if the sun is not even… You would never take the Hubble Telescope and point it at the sun, this would destroy its detectors. Not only that, if the telescope is pointing there and the sun is over there, even though you’re not looking at the sun, reflections off of the optics will produce what we call ghosting, and that kind of ghosting produces some very strange images. And one of the many things we need to worry about when we see unusual things taken from a camera is even if you’re pointing the camera there, was the sun over there? Those kinds of anomalies degrade the quality of the data, and that’s why it’s very important to work with well-characterized instruments and to be using them in ways in which you understand what’s going on.

I think if you look at data taken from the James Webb Telescope or from the Hubble or any of these things, and these are telescopes looking out in space, you’ll see some really at first funny phenomenon. When a telescope points at a star that’s bright, it saturates the detector and puts bleeding down the detector. And you’ll see phenomenon if there’s a bright star off to the side of the… Not even one you’re looking at, you get this effects where light bounces off of dust in your telescope and produces a diffused image that has some really strange properties. When you see something unusual, the first thing you have to do is understand how that data was taken, and I think this is one of the challenges one faces when you have data taken by uncalibrated instruments. Years ago, it’s very hard to know what’s taken, it’s very hard to draw conclusions. I think that’s one of the challenges with archival data. And I think having dedicated well-calibrated instruments I think will be important here as in any other area to understand what’s going on.

Mike Gold (25:48):

David, anomalies are so often the engine of discovery. Maybe you could say a quick word about high-risk, high-reward research in your field of cosmology and how you see that impacting the UAP study as well?

David Spergle (26:06):

An area that comes to mind is fast radio bursts, and a Shaw Prize was just announced yesterday and rewarded to the discovery of fast radio bursts, and these are these bursting signals that go off all over in space. And it’s an interesting story because some of the bursts were real and are fascinating, and some of the bursts… There was a series of bursts observed by this observatory in Australia and they had really strange structure and people couldn’t figure out what was going on, and then they started to notice a lot of them bunched together around lunchtime. And what had happened was the people at the observatory would heat up their lunch in the microwave, and something they would do is they would open the door of the microwave oven before the microwave stopped. This is bad for your microwave oven, it wears it out. But not only that, it produced a burst of radio signal that was picked up by these sensitive detectors.

This I think is an interesting lesson. Some events end up being something unusual and conventional, but some events with these FRBs turn out to be these powerful explosions which are taking place at cosmological distances, their nature is still not fully understood. I think they’re one of the really most fascinating objects we have, these bursts going out all over space. They’re interesting probes because they’re lighting up space between here and there, and they’re a subject of very active research. And if one looks at the history of these FRBs, at first they were discovered, not believed then finally confirmed. And they were discovered by instruments that were very sensitive but not optimized for this. And now what we’re doing is we’re optimizing instruments and optimizing software to look for these events. And it’s often these surprises that turn out to be most interesting.

And there are phenomenon like sprites which you can think of as upward going lightning, which were seen by commercial pilots and somewhat not believed because they were very strange. And it was really only when we were able to take very high speed imaging data, data taken often from places like Space Station, that we’re able to see and learn about these fascinating ionospheric phenomenon. Surprises are really interesting. I think this is one of the fascinating things about the UAP phenomenon, if it’s something that’s anomalous that makes it interesting and worthy of study.

Other questions? Great. Now, let me turn over to Sean.

Sean Kirkpatrick (29:39):

Thank you. Appreciate it. [inaudible 00:29:38] Thank you, David, Dan. It’s a pleasure to be back. Good morning everyone. I want to start by thanking NASA for convening today’s UAP independent study public meeting, and inviting me to continue to participate. NASA has been an invaluable partner to our team at Aero as we work to better understand and respond to Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena. We applaud NASA for commissioning its independent study team and for exploring what data and tools could be leveraged to shed greater light on UAP. Though NASA and Aero are taking on very different aspects of the UAP problem set, our efforts are very much complimentary. We both are committed to the scientific method, to a data-driven approach and the highest standards of scientific research integrity. While NASA is evaluating unclassified data sources for its study, Aero’s dataset includes classified material with a focus on national security areas. However, all of this data collectively is critical to understanding the nature and origin of UAP.

NASA brings unique capabilities, world-class scientists and a wealth of academic and research linkages. NASA also has access to earth sensing satellites, radiological sensors, tools for gravitational wave, geomagnetic wave detection, and means for analyzing open source and crowdsource data that may assist both Aero and NASA in their UAP efforts. We are very grateful for the partnership and welcome the opportunity to join with NASA to share our collective findings with the public as the US government moves towards greater transparency on this issue. Last month, I testified before members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on emerging threats and capabilities and shared some of the progress made since Aero’s establishment in July 2022. I discussed Aero’s scientific and analytic approaches, its efforts to improve UAP data collection, standardize our reporting processes, leverage our partnerships and meticulously review the US government’s UAP related historical records. As I told the subcommittee then, the resolution of all UAP cases cannot be accomplished by DOD and the intelligence community alone.

Aero’s ultimate success will require partnerships with the inter-agency, industry, academia, the scientific community and the public which all bring their own resources, ideas and expertise to the UAP challenge. We believe robust collaboration and peer review across a broad range of partners will promote greater objectivity and transparency in the study of UAP. Of course, NASA’s UAP Independent Study team was convened very much in that spirit. I also emphasized to Congress that only a very small percentage of UAP reports display signatures that could reasonably be described as anomalous. The majority of unidentified objects reported to Aero and in our holdings demonstrate mundane characteristics of readily explainable sources. While a large number of cases in Aero’s holdings remain technically unresolved, this is primarily due to a lack of data associated with those cases, very much along the lines of what David was just speaking about. Without sufficient data, we are unable to reach defendable conclusions that meet the high scientific standards we set for resolution.

Meanwhile, for the few objects that do demonstrate potentially anomalous characteristics, Aero is approaching these cases with the highest level of objectivity and analytic rigor. This includes physical testing and employing modeling and simulation to validate our analyses and the underlying theories, and then peer reviewing those results before reaching any conclusions. Aero has shared these cases with the appropriately cleared NASA team members in order to discuss and help recommend potential scientific areas of study that NASA may want to take lead on. I’ll underscore here as I did before Congress that Aero’s work will take time if we are committed to doing it right. Aero is committed to the highest standards of scientific research integrity as we know our partners at NASA are as well.

Thanks again to NASA for hosting this public forum for UAP discussion and information exchange. And I’d like to turn to a brief presentation that includes some recently declassified footage and trends for discussion. Next slide please. Some of you probably saw a version of this at the open hearing last month, this is an overall review of all of the analytic trends of all the cases that we have to date. While the numbers may have changed a little bit, the overall trends remain the same. Most of what we are seeing reported by aircraft are at the altitudes where we fly aircraft, that should not be a

Sean Kirkpatrick (35:00):

Surprise. You will note however that I have no space reports and I have no maritime reports. That is notable even though we are looking across all of those domains. On the upper right we have UAP morphologies. The vast majority of what has been reported and what we have data on, a little less than half now, are orbs, round spheres. In the bottom right you will see in the really the heats map of the areas where we get most of our reporting, this is very much a collection biased map. This is where our sensors are, our military and our IC and some of the FAA data. In the middle, it is what we call our typical UAP characteristics for the vast majority of the cases that we see. One way of looking at that is a… We’ll call it a target package. This is the thing we are out hunting for in most cases. Next slide please.

This is an example of one that I showed at the hearing recently. This is a spherical orb metallic in the Middle East 2022 by an MQ-9. I will come back to the sensor question that David raised here in a moment. This is a typical example of the thing that we see most of. We see these all over the world and we see these in making very interesting apparent maneuvers. This one in particular, however I would point out demonstrated no enigmatic technical capabilities and was no threat to airborne safety. While we are still looking at it, I don’t have any more data other than that and so being able to come to some conclusion is going to take time until we can get better resolved data on similar objects that we can then do a larger analysis on. Next slide please.

I’m going to let this play through. This is a newly released video. You’ll notice there are two dots moving back and forth. There is a plane at the bottom that’s moving across the screen and now there are three dots moving back and forth. The moving back and forth is from the sensor and the platform that’s collecting it. This is a P-3 on a training mission in the western United States. They picked these up and they tried to intercept and was unable to intercept them. Apart from that motion, and you’ll see a little bit of defocusing from the sensor itself, there is no other oddity about this except for the fact that they couldn’t catch them. The reason they couldn’t catch them is because after further analysis it was shown that those objects were actually much farther away from the P-3 than they thought.

In fact, when we went even deeper looked at air traffic control data, we were able to match those to aircraft on a major flight corridor heading into a major airport for landing. This is the kind of thing that can spoof and/or provide misperception of both very highly trained pilots as well as sensors, right? This was reported as an odd grouping of three UAP. All right? That is not to say that the pilots didn’t know what they were looking at or they knew what they were looking at, but they weren’t really sure. But it also is meant to say that when they’re not sure, they’re reporting it now and that’s what they’re supposed to be doing and then we have to go look at it. Next slide please.

That brings us to really what is AARO doing in the science and technical realm. This is one of those areas that I’m going to expound a little bit more on than we did in the last hearings. AARO has a robust scientific plan that we are required to then provide to Congress here pretty soon. One of the first things that we’re doing is looking across all the existing sensor data against that typical UAP target that I gave you up at the very first slide. That goes beyond DOD and IC sensors. That’s commercial, that’s civil, and with partnership with NASA, with NASA sensors and NOAA sensors. Understanding if any of these earth sensing satellites, any of these airborne platforms, any of these ground radars, whether it’s FAA or other, can actually see these things, given what we’ve got so far, is going to be an important first step to understanding which sensors are going to be relevant.

From there, we are augmenting with dedicated sensors that we’ve purpose built designed to detect, track and characterize those particular objects. We will then be putting those out in very select areas for surveillance purposes. Partnerships with academia, exploring the signatures to match to our data so understanding if a thing is moving and if it is doing certain anomalous activities, what are the signatures we would expect to see? How do we pull on that? And then from there, how do I tune my collection architecture to go after it?

Statistical analytic techniques. We’re working with a couple of universities on how do I do broader based statistical analysis on unclassified and classified data so that I can apply those analytics to our holdings. Then AI and ML analytic techniques for searching out through the data what are the objects, what are the targets that we’re going after? We have partnerships with both DOD and DOE labs to explore our current state-of-the-art fundamental physics of UAP observations, both current and historical. In other words, if I have objects, those few that are doing some things that are anomalous, what is our current understanding of maneuverability, speed, signature management, propulsion? What are those underlying signatures that we would expect to see and how do I then pull on that?

Our interagency and allied partnerships for calibration of our capabilities. This is exactly what David was pointing at. A vast majority of what we have reported to us are DOD sensors. DOD sensors are not scientific sensors. They are not intelligence community sensors. Believe it or not, intelligence community sensors are very close to scientific sensors. They are calibrated, they are high precision, they are everything you’d ever want to know about a thing. DOD sensors have one purpose. They are to identify an object that is known and put a weapon on it. That is what they’re for, right? Predominantly. Understanding how do you calibrate those against these known objects? How do I fly an F-35 against a weather balloon at different speeds and different altitudes and different sun conditions and different lighting conditions and heating conditions? Those are all important measurements that need to be done and we in process of doing that right now.

That table on the right is a very simplified version of our entire test matrix, which you would not be able to fit on three of these slides against all of our sensors across all of those phenomenologies. That will be useful in order to then train our operators, pilots and sensors against the known objects.

Finally, our pattern of life analysis. This is essentially baselining what is normal. I have all these hotspot areas, but we only have hotspot areas because that’s when the reports come in from the operators that are operating at that time. They don’t operate all the time. To have a 24/7 collection monitoring campaign in some of these areas for three months at a time is going to be necessary in order to measure out what is normal. Then I’ll know what is not normal when we have additional things that come through those spaces. That includes space and maritime. Next slide please.

Which brings me to some of my recommendations for the panel and their consideration and deliberation. Of some of these, we are going to be exploring with our new NASA embed. I’m happy to be welcoming on Pritar pretty soon who’s going to help us in our scientific plan. Crowdsourcing, unclassified open source data. This is where some of the public can be helpful. No, imagery from a iPhone is generally not helpful unless you are right up on whatever it is you’re looking at. However, some of the ancillary data that your iPhone provides from location to speed to other phenomenologies and more than one of those can be very helpful, right?

Large scale, ground-based scientific instrumentation. Evaluating how can I use some of these other instruments for detection? The FRB example was perfect, right? You have a bunch of large scale instruments that were not designed for that. Yet, they picked them up because there was a microwave. Well, we have a surrogate target package of what we think these things are, at least from what we’ve got reported to us, that was in the front slide. Understanding how can I evaluate that against all of these other instruments and do any of them have a chance of picking anything up that would be helpful in tipping and queuing us to get other sensors on target. I think leading that evaluation of the scientific ground-based sensors would be useful. Also, the same thing for the earth sciences satellites, as we mentioned before.

Intentional vice coincidental collection. Looking at how can I provide a tip and cue to both the ground and space-based scientific and academic sensor community to put additional sensors on a object when it is reported. I’m currently doing that with AARO, the joint staff, the commands for when they get tip and cue. A pilot says something, they see something, they report it in and we are going to turn on a whole bunch of new collection to go after it. I should be able to hand that same tip and cue to the scientific and academic community so looking at how that works would be helpful.

Peer reviewing advanced capabilities, the parameterization and the publication of that that have not yet been engineered. We understand a lot of fundamental physics. It is the scientific community’s responsibility to explore and document those fundamentals in peer-reviewed scientific journals to match to data so that we can weed out all kinds of different hypotheses. That’s how science works. We need to make sure that we are doing that. I think leading that conversation would be very helpful from NASA’s perspective.

Archived scientific data. We have a whole bunch of calibrated large scale scientific data from all these different instrumentations around the world. Taking a look at how can you apply maybe some AI/ML tools to search through that data for anomalous signatures that may correlate to things that we’ve got reporting on. That would be an interesting study. Distributions of sightings, I think this is a low hanging fruit one. If we take a look at all of the distributions of sightings that are outside of my national security areas that I’ve got classified reporting for and they generate the similar distribution map as we’ve got and we put those two pieces together, now I have a holistic picture.

Then of course our foreign partnerships. Building a robust scientific community of interest review data, capabilities, conduct analysis and expanding upon our military and intelligence collaborations across the world into the scientific and academic world. With that, those were my thoughts. We’ve talked about some of these in the past. It would be interesting to hear if there’s any further questions or deliberations on any of those points and I’m happy to take any questions that you all have.

David Spergle (48:30):

Great. Thank you, Dr. Kirkpatrick. I also want to take this opportunity to thank you and the AARO for your openness in providing this committee with insight and information about what you’ve learned so far, how we could work together. I think this is very much an area where it’s going to be essential that NASA be a partner and be a good partner for AARO, and really want to thank you for your role with this committee in helping to start to build that partnership.

Sean Kirkpatrick (49:03):

It’s been my pleasure.

David Spergle (49:05):


Reggie (49:06):

Hey, Sean. Thanks for that. Thanks for briefing. Question: we talked a little about data already. Let’s talk about sensors for a second. You mentioned that you work with labs, academia. Do you see a need to go beyond what you mentioned earlier? That is the type of sensors we have right now, which are based on national security threats and certain phenomenologies and frequency range of these kinds of things, do you see a reason of going beyond that?

Sean Kirkpatrick (49:30):

Yep, absolutely.

Reggie (49:32):

What are some of the challenges you see there, materials or what have you?

Sean Kirkpatrick (49:35):

Can we go back to the front slide, just the first slide where the target characterization is? We’ve purpose built a couple of sensors to do search across that… Nope, down one. There you go. That’s great. To go down some of those characteristics to see if we can find them correlated to pilot reporting. Some of those are… Initially this is going to be, I’m going to say this is a bootstrap method, right? We’re doing a broad spectrum search across very few indicators that we can point to that will enable us to get a little bit more data, refine that, narrow those sensors and go from there. We aren’t just relying on the DOD and IC sensors that exist today because frankly they don’t point to where we want them to point. I’ll be frank with everyone, we can point the largest collection apparatus in the entire globe at any point we want.

You just have to tell me where I want to point it. The second piece of that is a lot of what we have is around the continental United States. Most people, including the government, don’t like it when I point our entire collection apparatus to your backyard. It’s not allowed. We have some laws about that and we’ve got to figure out how to do this only in the areas that I can get high confidence there’s going to be something there and high confidence I’m not going to break any laws doing it.

There’s a trade there so some of these ground-based point detectors are going to be necessary for that to point up, to point out to search. Coupled with we’re evaluating a number of sensor opportunities across different organizations, academia, industry, whatnot, that already exist or are being built for similar purposes or maybe other purposes that I might be able to recalibrate for this and see if those will have a chance of seeing that target. That’s where the modeling and sim comes in. “Can I take that target, put it into your sensor and have a chance of seeing it?” If I can, then I might want to use that.

David Spergle (52:13):

Who’s next?

Sean Kirkpatrick (52:13):


Dr. Nadia Drake (52:17):

Thanks, Sean. I have the questions you probably don’t want, which are about numbers unless I missed them during your presentation. You had said that only a very small percentage of your cases display signatures that could be anomalous and then followed that up with the few objects that do demonstrate potentially anomalous characteristics. What numbers are we talking about? How big is your database? How many years was it collected over and were those observations made? Then by few, what do you mean?

Sean Kirkpatrick (52:46):

Right. No, that’s a great question. This chart, as I mentioned, we’ve updated with our current data holdings. At the time of my open hearing, we were at 650 cases-ish. We are now over 800. We are putting together our annual report, which will be due August 1 to the Hill and in it there will be an unclassified version as there always has been. We will have those updated numbers at that time. We roughly get, you can do the math, it depends anywhere from 50 to 100-ish new reports a month. Now the reason we had such a big jump recently is because I got FAA’s data integrated in finally and so we ended up with 100 and some odd new cases. There’s reason why it’s going to fluctuate. The numbers that I would say. We’re going to try to do a little more fidelity on some of the analytics when we report out. But the numbers I would say that we see are possibly really anomalous are less than single digit percentages of those, that total database. Maybe two to five ish percent.

David Spergle (54:27):

Who’s next?

Nicola Fox (54:27):

Is this on?

David Spergle (54:28):


Nicola Fox (54:31):

Hi. I’ll stand up because I’m on the other end of the room. Thanks, Sean, for your presentation and for some of the video footage that we saw. While we’re all good scientists on this panel, I think that I look at it with an untrained eye of looking at that video and so I see three spots moving and everything else in the background looks like it’s stable. Can you talk a little bit more about either the sensor platform or what we’re seeing that’s stable in the background because they’ve been identified as airplanes and there’s clear description from other data sources that came in to help clarify that. But when I look at this, what are all of the white spots in the background that we’re seeing that are stable?

Sean Kirkpatrick (55:12):

That’s a star background, pretty sure that’s star background. Now, you’re looking at those planes were roughly 30 to 40 ish miles away if I remember correctly. When you see that smaller plane that comes in at the bottom, that one was much, much closer. It was like maybe six to 10 miles away. The jitter in the sensor is what you’re looking at.

Nicola Fox (55:51):

Right. Okay. The three spots, because they look like they’re moving at about the same-

Sean Kirkpatrick (56:00):

Right. They are.

Nicola Fox (56:02):

If they were flying together, but they’re not, is what I’m hearing. This is the sensor moving.

Sean Kirkpatrick (56:09):

They’re in a flight line, so they’re equally spaced in a flight line and the sensor is jittering.

Nicola Fox (56:15):

Thank you.

Sean Kirkpatrick (56:16):


Nicola Fox (56:16):

Appreciate that.

Sean Kirkpatrick (56:19):

Yes. Wait. Walter’s been waiting.

Walter (56:22):

Patiently waiting. Okay. If you go to your first slide, if you don’t mind, not the title slide, but the-

Sean Kirkpatrick (56:28):

The trends slide.

Walter (56:28):

The trends, yeah. It’s the previous slide.

Sean Kirkpatrick (56:32):

There you go. Thank You.

Walter (56:34):

I want to make sure I understand the slide. It says typically reported characteristics and there are a bunch of things here like for example, size, altitude, speed. If it’s being observed from a single sensor, use the example of the airplanes that were coming in, and if you don’t know how far away they are, how do you assess the size?

Sean Kirkpatrick (56:53):


Walter (56:54):

How do you assess the speed? This is what people would report, but it isn’t necessarily real the size of the object or the speed or any of the rest of that. Do I understand that correctly?

Sean Kirkpatrick (57:06):

Partially. This is not all single sensor observations. Some of these are very much multi-sensor observations and this is parameterized to cover the range of things for any given parameter, range of what’s possible and what is been observed.

Walter (57:27):

Then on the next slide, the one where you’ve got the meatball moving across the screen.

Sean Kirkpatrick (57:34):

Right. That one.

Walter (57:39):

Was there any look at sensor artifact, data processing artifact? The first thing that whenever I say anything that’s anomalous, I look at how was the data collected.

Sean Kirkpatrick (57:56):

Yes, so this is an EO sensor on an MQ-9 and we understand that very, very well. That is a real object. Absolutely. Anna Marie?

Anamaria Berea (58:20):

You mentioned that in partnership with you also use AI/ML techniques for existing data sets, possibly some of the open source. Can you explain a little bit more what kind of AI/ML techniques you’re using? Are these about anomaly detection or are using anything related to natural processing are using anything related to computer vision?

Sean Kirkpatrick (58:43):

We’re looking at a number of different capabilities that span, I think a lot of what you’ve just said. We haven’t applied it yet. We are researching how we’re going to apply it so natural language processing for the reports from pilots. Absolutely. All right. Target recognition. I can train a model to look for that thing and go back through all of our holdings and go, “Give me how many of these you have,” and then try to figure out what those are. I have not put anything out there yet or have not looked at anything yet for active targeting in real time because I don’t know exactly what I would train it to go look for. I just know what we have. I want to get more confidence on what we have before I go and do that. Except for balloons, right? We’re trying to get rid of balloons as quickly as possible.

Mike Gold (59:48):

Sean, I just wanted to begin by thanking you for your service to this nation and this committee. You don’t exactly have the easiest job in Washington.

Sean Kirkpatrick (59:54):

No, I do not.

Mike Gold (59:55):

Appreciate it.

Sean Kirkpatrick (59:56):

I’m glad you recognize that.

Mike Gold (59:58):

We certainly do. I also want to commend you noting the international partnerships. Spain just signed the Artemis Accords yesterday, increasing the membership to 25. I think that’s a global partnership that you could leverage. Only 170 more countries to go. NASA thanks everyone who as signed up. I just have two questions. One, relative to what Nadia was asking you about the number of anomalous phenomena. What makes it anomalous in your view? What is the phenomenology where you’re pulling those cases out and saying this is truly unexplained? Then my second question would be relative to the stigma, how damaging is that in your view? And what in particular do you think NASA can do to help remedy the situation?

Sean Kirkpatrick (01:00:44):

That’s a great question. I’m going to take the second one first because I know we’re getting short on time. The stigma has improved significantly over the years since the Navy first took this on some years ago. It is not gone. In fact, I would argue the stigma exists inside the leadership of all of our buildings, wherever that is. My team and I have also been subject to lots of harassment, especially coming out of my last hearing because people don’t understand the scientific method and why we have to do the things we have to do. Because we can’t just come out and say… The greatest thing that could happen to me is I could come out and say, “Hey, I know where all these things are. Here you go.” But I don’t, right? It’s going to take us time to research all that.

People want answers now and so they’re actually feeding the stigma by exhibiting that kind of behavior to all of us. That is a bad thing. Where can NASA help? I made that recommendation on NASA should lead the scientific discourse. We need to elevate this conversation. We need to have this conversation in an open environment like this where we aren’t going to get harassed because this is a hard problem. It is a hard target problem. We need to understand what is the things that are in all of our domains, space or air or under sea, and how do we make sense of that?

Your first question on what makes it anomalous to me, we actually developed some definitions on all of these things. We gave it both to the White House and to Congress. I think we’ve got some of that into law now. But essentially, anomalous is anything that is not readily understandable by the operator or the sensor. It is doing something weird, whether that’s maneuvering against the wind at Mach-2 with no apparent propulsion or it’s going into the water, which we have have shown is not a case. That is actually a sensor anomaly that we’ve now figured out and we’re going to be publishing all of that. Those kinds of things make anomalous signature… We’ll call it signature management, but it’s things that are not readily understandable in the context of, “Hey, I’ve got a thing that’s out in the light. It should reflect a certain amount of light. If it doesn’t reflect that amount of light, something weird.”

David Spergle (01:03:46):

I think we have time for one last question.

Speaker 1 (01:03:49):

Sean, you recommended foreign partnership with NASA. I’m curious, especially given your map, have you ever partnered with international agencies and is there ways for reporting to your group?

Sean Kirkpatrick (01:04:05):

That’s a great question. I’m going to expound on that just a little bit. I have just held our first Five Eyes forum on this subject last week, I think it was, or earlier this week. I don’t know. Dan was there. We’ve entered into discussions with our partners on data sharing. How do they do reporting? What kind of analysis can they help us with? What kind of calibration can they help us with? What can we help them with? We’re establishing all of that right now and they’re going to end up sending their information and data to us to feed into the process that we’ve laid out for how we’re going to do all of this. Beyond that, I have not had either the time or the bandwidth to do. That’s why I would look to NASA to expand the scientific and academic relationships that they have across all of our allies and partners on how can we bring them into the fold. That’s where I think there’s a lot of benefit to NASA taking and lead on that.

David Spergle (01:05:18):

Great, thank you. Just one clarification for people who don’t know, what are the Five Eyes?

Sean Kirkpatrick (01:05:24):

Oh, I’m sorry. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Five Eyes, that’s the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Those are the five partners.

David Spergle (01:05:38):

Terrific. So thank you.

Sean Kirkpatrick (01:05:40):

Thank you. Okay, thank you.

Dr. Nadia Drake (01:05:46):

Yeah, free. Pronounce it free.

David Spergle (01:05:48):

Our next presentation’s from Mike Freie from the FAA talking about the FAA’s role and what’s learned.

Mike Freie (01:06:03):

Would like to thank the panel for the opportunity to come and give an overview of the FAA and some data points around the FAA’s mission, the data the FAA provides to provide the framing of what are the surveillance systems that we can bring to bear or there there’s data around those sensors as well as to frame the limitations of those. Sean talked about some of the data points that are used and being integrated. Hopefully this will give you an overview of the FAA’s mission as well as those data points. Next slide please.

The FAA’s mission is quite large and complex. By a factor of two, we operate more commercial aircraft than any other country. I think we’re second only to Australia in total airspace, but largely because Australia has a very large oceanic volume that they’re responsible for managing. It is very complex, very large national airspace system. We have over 14,000 controllers, 520 air traffic control towers, which are located at the highest density of airports. I’ll refer to those as towers in subsequent slides. We have 147, what we call terminal radar approach controls or TRACONs. Those are manned control facilities at the high and medium density airports around the nation, as well as 21 air route traffic control centers, which manage the control of air traffic in the en-route environment. There’s over 19,000 airports, over 5,000 of those are associated public airports with the remaining 14,000 plus private airports. Next slide please.

The FAA’s mission is primarily around safe and efficient control of manned aircraft. That has been our historical mission and remains our primary mission. Certainly as we talk about a new entrance with UASs and advanced Air Mobility and some of those things, there will be an evolution of the FAA’s mission to include safe operation of the NASS with those new entrants. But the architecture and design of the NASS is geared around safe and efficient control of aircraft and manned aircraft. Certainly the commercial aspect, commercial flights are a primary focus of the agency. We certainly support general aviation and flights as well. But again, our mission is around manned aircraft and safe and efficient operation of those.

By the numbers, over 16 million flights yearly. 5,400 flights at the peak time of any given day. 45,000 daily flights. 25 million GA flight hours per year. Very large, very complex operation that we’re responsible for managing. We certainly provide a significant contribution for that service to the nation in the form of the product toward a GDP. Next slide.

As we get into the discussion of surveillance services, I want to provide a little bit of framework around the categorization of our surveillance services. We primarily break those into two bodies. The cooperative surveillance, which is defined by a sensor that’s avionics or equipment on board the aircraft that works in conjunction with ground-based sensors. The non-cooperative surveillance is independent. This is basically the classic radar. RF energy is transmitted out, reflects off the target, and

Mike Freie (01:10:00):

We receive that signal, and from that return we can determine where that aircraft is. Typically, these cooperative and non-cooperative sensors are co-located together, the cooperative mounted on top of the non-cooperative radar. From a data perspective, and this panel and this study, I think that the cooperative sensors, those are neither unknown or anomalous. For the purposes of this briefing, or the rest of this briefing, I’m going to focus on the non-cooperative aspect. Next slide please.

Again, from the standpoint of the mission of the FAA, again, is primarily around manned aircraft. I think that serve serves as an important framework for the data points, and the type of data that we can bring to bear for this panel. We break our systems and the design of the systems into different types of systems. We have short range radars, which are typically located at the high and medium density airports. They have a detection range between 40 and 60 miles, and an altitude detection capability of about 24,000 feet. The long-range radar systems have a detection range of 200 to 250 nautical miles, with altitude detection up to 100,000 feet. That provides the basic framework for those.

I will mention the automatic dependence surveillance broadcast, or ADSB, only from a context that, that does serve as a primary data source, and a preferred data source for the management of the airspace system. It is a cooperative system, and for the purposes of the next slides, as I get into the discussion of the coverage and the type of detection for those non-cooperative targets, it is not considered as part of those. Also, surface surveillance is also something that we provide. But again, for the purpose of the study, I only include those for just a completeness perspective.

The one final point, as I talk about manned aircraft and primary mission for the drones, and balloons, and things of that nature, their basic premise is to operate in a not to interfere basis. They are not to interfere with the manned operations, and that’s a fundamental aspect as we talk to the data, and what we can and can detect with respect to those non-manned systems. Next slide please.

Realizing this is an eye chart, I wanted to provide just a graphical, or pictorial depiction of where our sensors are located. The green, blue and pink balloons, if you will, represent our short-range radars. Those are located at airports, those are where those are sighted. The two reddish balloons, they have letters in them, a four and a C. Those represent our long-range radars, the ARSR4s and CRSR systems, that are used in the context of both from an air traffic control perspective as well as for a national defense and homeland security mission. The ARSR4s, are located around the perimeter of the country, equally spaced, and the CRSR systems are located on the interior of the U.S. I will point out that this only depicts the conus. There are systems, ATC, both short-range and long-range systems, Hawaii, Alaska, and the Caribbean. Those are not depicted here. I didn’t think they were necessary for the purpose of understanding the surveillance. I will also point out that both for this slide and the subsequent coverage slide, I do not talk to any classified DOD or DHA systems that are in operation. Okay, next slide please.

What can the FAA detect, and surveil? What can we not? This slide gives you a bi-altitude slice of what it is that we can detect. If you look at the square that’s labeled 1,000 foot AGL, that depicts, by sensor, for an aircraft that is 1,000 feet in altitude, what is the range at which we can detect that aircraft? As you get higher in altitude, you can detect at further range. That’s basically a phenomena of the curvature of the earth, and the line of sight aspect of these radar systems, so pretty good coverage across the U.S., at 10,000 feet and above.

This is a mathematical model based on a pure line of sight, as well as some geographical screening. As you can see in the western part of the U.S., there is screening due to the mountains and those sensors. I need to take a little bit of time and talk about the nature of the targets. These line of sight models represent an input of a target that is one square meter. Think of a sphere of one meter in diameter, that’s the assumption that goes into these models.

If you think about that in the context of other forms or aircraft, a fourth generation F-15 or F-18 is in the proximity of about one square meter, perhaps a little bit larger. A large airliner is perhaps 100 square meters. A small UAS is perhaps 0.01 square meter. The range of these detections, or the size and the ability to detect these targets, from a F-15, large airliner, 100 times larger in size, a drone, 100 times smaller in size. The detection of and the surveillance capability really largely depends, in part, to the target that we’re talking about, and the ability to surveil that target. All right, next slide. I do include this ADSB coverage slide just to give a context of, from a cooperative perspective, there is very good coverage across the U.S., to 1,500 feet above ground level. This provides a context of what, when we look at the data and start getting into discussion of what it is we can detect, for those cooperative aircraft that have ADSB, we could certainly detect those to a pretty low altitude across the U.S.

All right, a couple of data points. I know Sean certainly talked about some of the data points, and I can provide a little bit of insight from an FAA perspective. Drones are pretty significant challenge. There are 880,000 registered drones in the U.S., small drones, I should say, Part 107 drones. Many tens of thousands of those are operate operated on a daily basis by commercial operators. It’s not clear how many private drone operators are taking their drone up for a quick flight, but as I said earlier, they’re regulated to operate below 400 feet in altitude. Again, the drone aspect, for those small drones in particular, and as well as all classes of drones, there are regulatory restrictions to where they can and cannot fly, basically avoiding and not interfering with manned aircraft operations.

The second data point, we talked about balloons, the weather service. We know 92 weather stations release balloons twice a day. It’s at 6:00 AM, or zero hundred Zulu and 1200 Zulu. Typically a two-hour duration, they fly up to 100,000 feet, where the envelope bursts and then the payload descends back to earth. Certainly, at least 184 balloon flights daily in the [inaudible 01:18:42], not to consider universities and hobbyist balloons that may be launched, but those are typically small in size.

Finally, Sean did talk about UAPs and NFA data, a couple of data points that we do report. There is a process by which air traffic controllers can report UAP sightings or events. Historically, those have been in the range of about three to five reports per month that have been reported. We did see an uptick of reports in August of ’22. That went up to about eight to 10, perhaps due to Starlink launches. Finally, with the Chinese balloon incident in February, we did see a significant uptick. There’s 68 UAP reports that started in February, and we’ve seen a large number subsequent to that. I think that’s all I had. Any questions?

David Spergle (01:19:49):

Actually, you can call choose the questioners. It’s easier from your angle than from mine.

Mike Freie (01:19:53):

All right, Walter.

Walter (01:19:55):

Yeah, so two questions about the radar data coverage. The first one is, do you retain any of the data, or is it just cycled over?

Mike Freie (01:20:06):

There is a long-term retention of data. I can’t recall exactly how long retained, there is certainly a requirement from a legal perspective.

Walter (01:20:19):

[inaudible 01:20:19] accident?

Mike Freie (01:20:19):

Yeah, exactly. I do know there is some periodicity measured in a term of months.

Walter (01:20:25):

It retained in terms of the raw radar, or is it some processed form of data that’s retained?

Mike Freie (01:20:31):

I believe it’s a processed form of data that is what was displayed, whether it’s an Indian route ERAM system or the STAR system.

Walter (01:20:40):

The other question is, for the radars, are they operated in any sort of a tasked mode, or are they constant search mode?

Mike Freie (01:20:49):

The current systems in our inventory, they’re fixed face, and they just rotate at either 12 RPM or five rpm, depending on whether it’s an en route or a terminal surveillance requirement.

Walter (01:21:01):

Okay, thanks.

Mike Freie (01:21:01):

All right, next question? Yes.

Mike Freie (01:21:03):

Mike, forgive me if you mentioned this earlier, but I think you said three to five reports per month?

Mike Freie (01:21:13):

Per month.

Mike Freie (01:21:13):

Out of how many?

Mike Freie (01:21:13):

That is three to five reports per month for all of the controllers in all of the U.S. There’s a process by which, if they see something and they want to report that, they can go to report that to the den, we call it, but report, “Hey, I saw something. I don’t know what it was.” That’s three to five per month across the entire… you have 14,000 controllers per month, so 45,000 operations any given day, 30 days, however many days in a month. It’s a very small percentage.

Federico Bianco (01:21:47):

Can you describe actually this? Do you encourage to report, do you feel like the stigma on UAPs is impairing the reporting? Do you think the reporting is biased?

Mike Freie (01:22:02):

I’ll answer it this way. The process by which a UAP is reported is part of the air traffic controller order. Basically, the air traffic controllers are allowed… it says, “If you see something, here’s the procedure by which you would report it.” Other than that, I’m not aware of any specific stigma or limitations. I’m probably not in a good position to speak to that, other than, there is that process, and that is the process that we use, and is what represents those numbers I talked to.

Federico Bianco (01:22:36):

If I may, I had a question prior to this one. How do you decide the sites where you deploy? We saw the map, and it has some very good coverage on the coastal areas. There were some areas of lack of coverage.

Mike Freie (01:22:48):

If you go back one slide from what’s presented here, what you’ll see is, in the eastern half of the U.S., there’s a lot better coverage, but that’s because there’s a lot more population in the east, and therefore, a lot more airports. These systems are historically sighted at the airport, in support of those airport operations. To the west, it’s obviously less dense, and fewer systems. That’s from an ASR, the short-range radar perspective. The long-range radars are pretty much equally spaced, in order to provide the maximum coverage from a homeland defense and security perspective, as well as, with the higher altitude flights, the en route cruise phase of air traffic control. Warren?

Warren Randolph (01:23:43):

Mike, first, thank you and the FAA for coming to share this information with us. Second, can you speak to a little bit of the filtering techniques that we use? I know Walter had a question about the raw data and process, but can you just talk a little bit about, we actually aren’t trying to detect everything.

Mike Freie (01:24:00):

That’s actually a very good question, and a very good point with respect to what we can and cannot see. The closer to the ground you point a radar, certainly you can get lower elevations, but you also start to see the effects of trees and other ground-based clutter, as we call it, that starts to interfere. We have great ability to detect a lot of things, but from an FAA mission perspective, our desire is to find that sweet spot of seeing everything to as low an altitude as we can, to maximize our mission around safe operations of manned aircraft.

Now, to pull that thread just a little bit further, there’s also limitations with respect to biologicals, or insects and dust, and things of this flavor, that most aircraft fly above a certain speed. We typically will have filtering settings on our systems to get rid of the stuff that really is leaves, or insects, or things of that nature, so that we provide as clean a display for the controllers. There are specific settings that we can adjust, and it’s been learned over many years to perfect those, what we call optimization of those filters, to get rid of what is not a manned aircraft, not an aircraft, and provide as clean a display for the controllers as we can. Yes?

Reggie (01:25:29):

Thank you, thanks for the presentation. To follow up on what you said, Warren, would it be possible to collect the raw data, and to say that? If it would be possible to do some calibration after the fact, that Sean was mentioning, for example, you might be able to capture the phenomenology. Is that possible?

Mike Freie (01:25:48):

Well, when you say raw data, I think we’d have to talk a little bit about what is meant. From a technical perspective, pure, what we would call INQ data is huge. Huge gigabyte, very large volumes of data that would probably be cost prohibitive, and we certainly don’t do that today. Again, we do record data, but it is effectively the data that has been through some form of these processings and these filterings. We do that today. Certainly, with enough time and money, we could collect that data, but we’d have to look at the challenge of how we would go about modifying the systems, or introducing new ways to collect that raw data, as you described. Certainly, it’s feasible, it’s possible, but it’s not without technical challenge.

Reggie (01:26:42):

I have one quick question.

Mike Freie (01:26:43):


Reggie (01:26:44):

On the 184 balloon flights daily, are those characterized, or you just know they do that, and then they just end up where they are?

Mike Freie (01:26:50):

Under the balloon, I’ll call it part 101, the regulations for balloons, there are very specific requirements. For the National Weather Service, before they release those, they’ll contact the local air traffic facility. They’re going to say, “Here’s what time I’m going to release it.” When they release it, they have tracking, and they provide that tracking to the air traffic control facility throughout the flight of that particular balloon. There are commercial balloons that are also launched, but those, for the most part, as I understand it, they actually transmit their GPS position in support of where they’re flying, so as to ensure they’re not interfering with air traffic, and to ensure the air traffic controllers are aware of where those balloons are operating. Yes, ma’am?

Shelley Wright (01:27:38):

We talked about reporting the three to five per month from air traffic control, but what about from the non-cooperative surveillance? Have there been anomalies from the sensors themselves? If so, what is the process for that?

Mike Freie (01:27:52):

I’d say the FAA mission is not around anomalies with the non-cooperative sensors themselves. As we build an air traffic control picture, we have both the non-cooperative systems, which detects the target, we have a cooperative system that also detects a target, and we will tend to merge those targets together. On our controller’s display, they’ll know, is this a noncooperative only or a merged or combined target? They know, with basically an increased level of confidence, that what it is or seen is in fact a real aircraft. We don’t make any real distinction between a non-cooperative and a cooperative, other than how they get combined and put on a controller’s display. I don’t know if that answered your-

Shelley Wright (01:28:40):

[inaudible 01:28:41] an unregistered flight?

Mike Freie (01:28:44):

A GA flight that is flying visual flight rules, if they’re not equipped with a cooperative avionics, those would just be picked up by the non-cooperative system if they happen to surveil where that aircraft is flying. That certainly will be put on the controller’s display, and they will be able to provide awareness. In fact, there’s a flight following procedure by which GA pilots can ask for, “Hey, I’m not squawking, or I don’t have a cooperative system, but please help me, and just via the radio, I’m going to go on from here to here, and provide situational awareness,” if the controller has the bandwidth to provide that data.

David Spergle (01:29:33):

One last question from Mike.

Mike Freie (01:29:34):


Mike Gold (01:29:35):

I’m not a scientist, I’m a recovering attorney, and I love process, and a few questions there. If I’m a pilot, where do I find that process for reporting UAPs? Where is that articulated, or captured? Second, when you mention that you’re reporting these incidents, who are you reporting it to? Are those incidents, pulling on the thread that Reggie started, being archived anywhere?

Mike Freie (01:29:56):

I believe they are archived. They’re reported to the domestic event network, it’s an FAA organization, or function. I can’t speak to whether they would be part of what Sean would include as part of his database, I presume so. I think that was the answer to the second question. What was the first question again? I’m sorry.

Mike Gold (01:30:21):

Where does the reporting process live? If I’m a pilot, I see a UAP, where do I go to find [inaudible 01:30:27]?

Mike Freie (01:30:27):

I don’t know the answer to that question. I’m familiar with the reporting process from a controller perspective, and the order that’s used to define how controllers do their job. I don’t know the answer to the question from a pilot perspective.

Mike Gold (01:30:40):


Speaker 2 (01:30:41):

I expect [inaudible 01:30:44].

David Spergle (01:30:44):

Great. Thank you, Mike, for your presentation, and for all the help the FAA has given us as we’ve been learning more about the very impressive system that the FAA maintains.

Mike Freie (01:30:55):

Thank you for having me.

David Spergle (01:30:58):

For me, one of the many takeaways from this is feeling just a little bit safer every time I fly, and thankful for you and your colleagues for what they do to make that possible.

Mike Freie (01:31:08):

Thank you.

David Spergle (01:31:10):

We’re now going to go take a quick lunch break. We’ll be back at 12:30, and see you all soon.

David Spergle (02:02:23):

Welcome back. So the next part of our session’s going to consist of a series of short presentations by members of the panel and their thoughts on different aspects of our charge. And the format is we’re going to have them come up to the podium and speak, and I’m going to ask each of the speakers then to take questions.

It’s actually the angle with this setup is you can see the people better from the podium than I can, where it’s hard to see people behind you. I’m going to try to manage the time. So as those questions come to an end, I’ll cut you off and bring up the next speaker. And we’ll move through the six topics and then we’ll have some time at the end for some general discussion.

The first speaker will be Dr. Nadia Drake, talking about framing the issue of UAP.

Dr. Nadia Drake (02:03:20):

Hello, and welcome back from lunch everybody, and welcome to those of you watching us virtually. I’m Nadia. I am a scientist by training. I’m also a science journalist now, and my job is to try and synthesize the information that we’ve learned so far and summarize the situation. So, if you will, put together a framework for thinking about UAP.

Now, I’m going to try and do this in a way that reflects the thoughts of the entire panel, although obviously we have a variety of opinions and ideas among us. So I’d like to leave some time at the end for you to weigh in with disagreements or concurrences as needed.

So, first, a housekeeping matter. The definition of UAP changed during the seven months of our fact-finding process. UAP initially stood for Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, with aerial referring to events occurring in earth’s atmosphere. That A is now defined as Anomalous, which includes the space, air, and undersea domains.

As a panel, I think we have decided to continue focusing our recommendations on the aerial domain because that is where the majority of sightings and events have occurred, and also because we couldn’t fully pivot to address the expanded scope of the new acronym.

Beyond that, there are three points I want to make. The first is that for a number of reasons, UAP are obviously quite interesting. That is why we are here. Recently, many credible witnesses have reported seeing unidentified objects in the sky, some of which are behaving rather peculiarly. In some instances, these reports include corroborating data from various instruments, various sensors. The challenge that we have is that the data needed to explain these anomalous sightings often do not exist or are incomplete for generating a conclusive analysis. This includes eyewitness reports, which on their own can be interesting and compelling, but often lack the information needed to make definitive conclusions about an object’s provenance.

We as a panel are thinking about the types of data that might add value to those reports and which could be useful on their own. As a corollary, to date, in the refereed scientific literature, there is no conclusive evidence suggesting an extraterrestrial origin for UAP. Collecting more good data for the scientific community to review in a peer-reviewed context will be important for progress to be made here.

The second point, UAP offer an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the power of the scientific method and of empirically addressing a question using a multidisciplinary approach. It is our job as a panel to make some recommendations about how NASA might go about tackling this topic scientifically, taking advantage of the agency’s resources, global outreach and reputation.

Key points to keep in mind here are that science is hypothesis driven. Scientists build confidence in their theories by relying on well-calibrated, well-collected data, using well-established methods with rigorous evaluation and independent corroboration. In science, skepticism is not a bias, nor is it a bad word. It is not our job to define nature, but to study it in ways that let nature reveal itself to us regardless of how exciting or disappointing that reality might be.

And to that end, when we’re thinking about making recommendations about how NASA can tackle this topic scientifically, I think it’s important to remember that it’s not NASA’s job to replicate the efforts of the Department of Defense, but rather to consider approaches that are complimentary to what the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office is doing. And so one of the questions that we as a panel I think need to center is, what can we recommend that NASA can do that the DOD cannot?

Third point, to that end, what are we even looking for? How are we defining this problem? And how do the available data define what seems to be, to borrow a cliche, a very slender needle in a very big haystack? We heard a little bit about that today from Dr. Kirkpatrick, who reported that there have been 800 events collected over about 27 years. And between 2 and 5% of those events display signatures that could be anomalous, defined as anything that is not readily understandable by the operator or the sensor, something that is doing something weird. Mr. Free and some of the experts on our panel have defined the background on which those events exist, the amount of stuff in the sky at any given time, like so. On average, FAA air traffic control handles 45,000 flights per day in US airspace, with 5,400 aircraft in the sky at peak time. Worldwide, on average, there are about 1,600 weather balloon launches per day. In the US there are at least 184 of those balloons launched, and that doesn’t include private companies or research flights. There are about 1.69 million recreational or model small uncrewed aircraft systems and an additional 880,000 drones are registered for commercial use. And these are not controlled by air traffic control and they’re not scheduled flights. So that’s our challenge.

So in making recommendations as a panel, I think we need to look at what kind of imprint we want to leave. What does this situation look like five years from now? What does it look like 10 years from now? Why are we making these recommendations? We heard a little bit about this this morning from both Mike and David, who noted that many discoveries in science are rooted in initially unexplained and bizarre phenomena. So by carefully scrutinizing the sky, or however we end up defining our search space, and by collaborating across disciplines, we are likely to learn new things about our planet. That’s a fact. And that’s the commencel science case we might want to consider when making recommendations here.

All right. Does anyone have thoughts?

David Spergle (02:09:38):

Questions, thoughts, comments? Karlin.

Dr. Nadia Drake (02:09:45):


Shelley Wright (02:09:47):

I guess I want to challenge a little bit. We changed the A from Aerial to Anomalous, as the legislation required, but I’m not sure we’ve precluded anything beyond the aerial for this panel. And so I just raise that as a question for us, even though mostly what we’ve seen, and I think NASA’s mission space would be more of the aerial.

Dr. Nadia Drake (02:10:11):

I agree with you and I think that is a parameter that we need to define as a panel.

Dan Evans (02:10:18):

Yeah, I’ll just quickly jump in and echo some remarks I made this morning that yes, the A changed from Aerial to Anomalous, but it’s also accurate to say that the preponderance for events are in the aerial domain. That being said, your panel scope has expanded outwards, and I think we’ll hear a little bit from David later on that very subject.

David Spergle (02:10:39):

I think anomalous people often think about it as going down and including ocean, but I think what’s very relevant for NASA is going out and looking at things in our solar system. And I think in some sense, I think of there’s certain responsibilities in, when we look at airspace, there’s FAA responsibilities, there’s DOD responsibilities.

As you get further and further away from the earth, eventually it’s all NASA. Once you get out towards certainly much of the solar system and out to our galaxy, that’s all NASA. And when we start thinking about things like, and this will be, David will get to this, observations beyond the earth atmosphere, I think this change in language lets us also think about further out in the solar system as well.

Dr. Nadia Drake (02:11:41):

Good. Yeah.

David Spergle (02:11:43):

Other thoughts?

Dr. Nadia Drake (02:11:46):

Did I summarize everything totally accurately? Awesome.

Shelley Wright (02:11:49):

That was great.

David Spergle (02:11:50):


Dr. Nadia Drake (02:11:51):

Thanks everybody.

David Spergle (02:11:53):


Dr. Paula Bontempi (02:11:53):

Okay. All right. All right, thank you. So I thought that was the perfect intro and segue by Dr. Drake for addressing why NASA, how what is or what are NASA’s roles in UAP studies?

So NASA primarily is a science-driven agency. It’s committed to exploring and understanding air and space. And this includes, as we were just discussing, the unknown, whether that’s the farthest reaches of the universe or right here on our home planet.

In that light, NASA has over 60 years of experience measuring phenomena in air and space. In air, that might be aeronautics, astronomy, as well as measuring other earth phenomena. And this may include aquatic or atmospheric phenomena as well. And they do this using the unique vantage point of space.

NASA’s mission data and technical expertise in science and engineering may also help investigate and understand any of the reported phenomena. It makes sense to explore what new observations or measurements or studies might contribute to the understanding of reported phenomena.

In that light, Dr. Fox made this point this morning. There’s a tremendous archive of NASA data. These are from satellites and other space-based and ground networks, as well as other assets. And these are freely and openly available to the public.

NASA research, as was mentioned, also supports a wide range of methods. This includes advanced data analysis, modeling, cutting edge computational and data visualization tools. And these are all useful for investigating unexplained observations which may be crucial in studying these phenomena.

Discoveries and results are all publicly available. And this can be something from the characterization of extraterrestrial solar planets or the hole in the ozone layer. And these are communicated publicly through many outlets through the agency.

NASA also has a longstanding public trust. This is essential to communicate those findings about phenomena to the public and, as was mentioned several times, very important to destigmatize the reporting and raise awareness of cultural and social barriers to doing so.

NASA has a unique strength in leveraging public and private partnerships that could result in new technologies that may be useful in observing and understanding reported phenomena. These partners could include other federal agencies. We’ve heard from the FAA today, as well as NOA was identified. And they may collect data that could help to understand reported phenomena.

In addition, NASA has a strong record of international collaboration, which could be beneficial to study any of these phenomena, as that may require global cooperation and data sharing.

And then one thing that really strikes me is that new understanding of anomalous events really comes from when we bring communities together, interdisciplinary communities that would not necessarily collaborate. In my world, that might be biological and physical oceanographers.

And I’d tell people to think a little more broadly, what if we brought together astronomers and earth scientists like we did on this panel so that those interdisciplinary research teams, as well as citizen scientists, could explore historical and current NASA and partner data for events, or more importantly, for environmental conditions around the time of reported events. And this may help in our understanding.

And then finally, given NASA’s experience with long-term missions, long-term projects in scientific focus, the agency is really well-equipped to handle the extensive and ongoing study of phenomena investigation that this likely requires.

So hopefully that gave you some thoughts as to why NASA. I don’t know if any of my fellow panelists agree or disagree. Discuss.

Federico Bianco (02:16:34):

Yes, Paula, thank you. So NASA has great visibility in the community and UAPs are obviously of great interest to a very diverse range of people. So can you speak a bit about the opportunity that this provides for NASA to expand the knowledge or the understanding of the scientific method?

Dr. Paula Bontempi (02:16:56):

Yes. So it’s a great question. There are multiple opportunities I think UAP present. The first, as I mentioned, I think is to bring together interdisciplinary research teams and scientists and citizen scientists to really take a look at with an objective and perhaps unique eye what the NASA data archive actually means. Blend in the partnerships, a renewed partnership that’s at the federal, the international, and the private level.

So I think there are any number of pathways that people could pursue that could be really advantageous for helping us to understand what’s happening with any reported UAP.

Other questions?

Shelley Wright (02:17:48):

Thank you, Paula. This is Shelley Wright. Actually, my question and comment actually goes to both you and Nadia. Dr. Kirkpatrick gave us a definition of anomalous that was that it was not readily understandable to the operator or the sensor. And from the NASA’s perspective, for our panel, I think we have to consider a broader definition if we’re talking about citizen science. And I’m curious of how we incorporate that, especially within the communication avenues that we were just discussing.

Dr. Paula Bontempi (02:18:21):

It’s a good question. So not all data in an archive are user-friendly right out of the gate, but I think NASA does an excellent job making things like quick look or browse products available. You can go on the NASA website, you can look at different aspects of different things that the agency has in its mission to study.

And I think, if nothing else, people have become a lot more in touch with their surroundings and their environment and the changes happening there. And so I think there’s probably an opportunity for people to maybe not become overnight experts in how to process satellite data and use it for basic research in a complex fashion, but there are ways to utilize those data to look at your environment if you think you’ve seen something or you wish to report something.

So communication, engagement in the public I think is a really important part of the destigmatization, for sure.

Nadia, I don’t know if you have anything to add.

Dr. Nadia Drake (02:19:27):

I was struck by the phrase not readily understandable. I felt like that was actually doing a lot of work. So I think for our purposes, we probably want to come up with a slightly more specific definition of what anomalous actually means.

Dr. Paula Bontempi (02:19:40):


Dr. Nadia Drake (02:19:41):


Dr. Paula Bontempi (02:19:41):


David Spergle (02:19:46):

Good. Thanks. Federica, you’re up next.

Federico Bianco (02:19:57):

Hello everybody. My name is Federica Bianco.

Federico Bianco (02:20:00):

I am an astrophysicist and a data scientist, and I bring this perspective to the panel. For the next few minutes, I want to emphasize some of the things that my colleagues have already mentioned about the data, particularly the status of the data that exist, and what the data that we should collect to really understand [inaudible 02:20:18] may be. We’ve already heard in a few cases by a few people that NASA’s role is to explore the universe through the scientific method. The application of the scientific method to discovery requires that the data meets some standards that allow the data driven approach. There are many standards that have been established in the scientific community over the years. I can mention one, for example, it’s called a FAIR standard where FAIR stands for findability accessibility, interoperability, and reusability.

The current status of the data about UAPs does not meet these standards. The data collection is inconsistent. It’s inhomogenous, it’s uncalibrated. The data are poorly documented and largely incomplete. They’re also not systematically retrievable, which causes a problem in automation of the analysis. [inaudible 02:21:14] could benefit from data science and machine learning methods from artificial intelligence that is developing at a rapid pace. Machine learning and AI cannot be applied until the data meet the standards. Even to study a single event currently requires a significant lift in retrieving the data and the metadata that may or may not be available. This lift is, at the moment, entirely person powered, which means that it cannot be automated to apply machine learning methods. Organized repositories need to exist to enable the automation of retrieval of the data and the metadata. This is a necessary premise to enable the systematic scientific approach to the study of UAPs.

Anomaly detection is a well-developed, although notoriously hard discipline which has seen tremendous advances recently with data science and machine learning. Usually this means detecting rare and unusual signals in a complex that is noisy and rich with phenomena that we know. There are two general approaches to anomaly detection in the scientific community. One is the following. If we know the signal that we expect, we can model it. We can simulate it and maybe inject it in our data. We can develop methods that are specific to finding those exact signals or signals that are similar to those. We might be able to conceptualize signals coming from physical system that responds to the laws of physics as we know them, but we cannot comprehensively produce all possible signals that could relate to, or explain new APs. The alternative approach in detecting anomalies requires a thorough and deep understanding of what is normal and unusual to tease out what is unusual and unlike the rest.

These methods typically fall in the realm of what we call unsupervised machine learning. What is usual, maybe the balloons, the aircraft. What a wealth of natural phenomena that we have heard of and what is unusual and what is an anomaly is anything in there that is not consistent with the way in which those things look in our data. Once the anomalous signal is detected, it can be studied in more depth, either through the discovery data itself, but that may not be sufficient. Then we may need to collect additional data to study these anomalies. This is something that in astrophysics we typically refer to as follow up data. This can be very hard, especially if the phenomena that are anomalous are also ephemeral in time. You have to promptly respond to the detection and set up observations. It’s an extremely hard game, but it’s something that is seeing a large development in astrophysics in recent years with the study of anomalous detections in the universe.

This approach relies entirely on a comprehensive and systematic organization of the data which is paramount, and on a deep understanding of all the data that is actually usual and known. The data that we might want to collect ideally will be collected in a multi-sensor, and multi-platform, and multi-site manner. Eyewitnesses reports, I want to elevate what Dr. Drake said, cannot ascertain the nature of UAPs. However, they should be considered because they may contain important information, for example, persistent sighting locations or seasonality, but they only really work if joined with quantitative data collected by sensors as well as biophysical and psychophysical assessments of the witness, and the impact that the experience has on them, to really reveal the nature of UAPs.

You’ve heard it from my colleagues a number of times. The data needs to be collected by sensors that need to be calibrated or calibratable. We need to collect not only the data, images, sounds, spectral characterization of what we see about, but metadata, the sensor type, the brand, the brand of the sensor, the noise characteristics, time of the acquisition, instrument sensitivity, as well as information about the circumstances of the data collection. For example, temperature or the location or the conditions in which the sensor is at the time of collecting the data. The data should be collected simultaneously by different platforms, ideally, ideally in different location in a multi-sensor system. Some of the data that we may want to collect are images, but also temperature, sound recording, spectral data, [inaudible 02:25:43] that tells you the color in a very fine grid as well as monitoring the motion of objects, which has been very important to identify what we have seen as UAPs that have been reported.

Much of this certainly can be achieved with professional grade infrastructure and both new and existing infrastructure to do that, such as astrophysical and geographical observatories, both on the ground and satellites. Some modern observatories, in particular, are designed for the detection of time anomalies specifically, as well as for the detection of objects that move rapidly in space, near earth objects, asteroids, meteors, et cetera. Those could be leveraged for the study of UAPs. There is also some effort ongoing in the developing of facilities that are specifically designed to detect UAPs. Many of those comply with the characteristics that I just described.

This level of information though can also be obtained by the public. We could crowdsource the data collection if a platform to crowdsource exists that supports the collection of data and metadata, and the transmission of data and metadata. We think that NASA might be able to play an important role in the development of this platform. To echo what Dr. Bontempi said, NASA has a wealth of experience in coordinating scientific studies, efforts across discipline and domains, serving as a bridge between communities in the interdisciplinary studies and studies across different countries. All of these can be leveraged to support the work of the other agencies in the identification and explaining UAPs.

NASA also has a really important experience in data curation. We have heard about the sophistication of the analysis of the data that NASA provides, of the sophistication of the calibration that the data that NASA shares arrives to. We have heard about the open data policy that NASA data goes under. Furthermore, NASA has recently spearheaded an effort to review NASA and NASA partner archival data to prepare them for machine learning and AI so that data can be served to the community directly and ready to apply AI methods on it. This is an important experience that could be leveraged in the study of UAPs. However, we do want to emphasize that the current status of the UAP data will make this lift really hard compared to even what is being done by NASA for astrophysical data.

Finally, I wanted to emphasize what my colleagues said, NASA has a great visibility, UAPs are of great public interest, and this could be an opportunity to really increase the reach of science, help people understand the scientific process, and maybe diversify the scientific community by attracting new talent into the scientific community due to the visibility of the problem. I think that’s all of my remarks.

David Spergle (02:28:51):


Federico Bianco (02:28:53):

Lots of questions.

David Spergle (02:28:54):

Do you want to go, Richie?

Walter (02:28:56):

On the whole crowdsourcing front and getting reports from citizen scientists, what are you thinking along those lines? Is it providing a set of guidelines for how you report? Is it open sourcing a set of applications for cell phones to be able to pull in a lot of the right metadata? What does that look like?

Federico Bianco (02:29:17):

Yeah. I think just a set of guidance of best practices, et cetera, would just not be sufficient. I think what needs to be provided is a platform. You mentioned cell phones. Cell phones have been used for crowdsourcing, the study and detection of a number of things in astrophysics, in space science. That can definitely be done. The issue, I think, is going to be to make sure that this platform reaches a large enough community to really have a crowd to source the problem and coordination. Something that this could achieve, for example, is the follow-up that I mentioned earlier. We need this community that would use the crowdsourcing facilities to be connected so that if something is sighted by one person, that message can go across and a broader community can point their sensors to the problem, to the sighting. The data has to be transmitted to a place that can centralize it and curate it.

Speaker 4 (02:30:27):

Yeah. Please feel free to say this is a bad idea, but if you thought about synthetic data? As you were talking, I was thinking, given the fact we don’t have enough quality data to train a known net, if we were to generate synthetic data, based on the information we do have and then filling out the other characteristics as we might guess, does that then help us train something to iterate in AI to be able to find other correlations within data as we get it?

Federico Bianco (02:30:53):

We do it all the time in data science. We do generate data sets where the data sets are sparse or scarce, and we cannot train machine learning models. It’s a risky business, because in the data that we generate, we embed the bias that we have. We embed our thinking about the data, the way in which we think the data looks, and the way in which we think the anomalies look. Particularly in anomaly detection, it is a very difficult thing to do to try to make sure that you don’t bias us your models to what you know.

David Spergle (02:31:24):

I want to come back to this topic of anomaly discussion in our general discussion. We’re sort of starting to run a little late, so want to cut off questions now, but we do have a little time later at the end. Don’t forget your questions, bring them up again in discussion and we’ll talk more later. Great. David’s our next speaker.

David Grinspoon (02:31:53):

All right. Good afternoon. My name’s David Grinspoon. I’m a planetary scientist and astrobiologist. I’m going to talk for just a couple of minutes about how observations beyond earth are relevant to our study of UAPs. Many of NASA’s missions are, at least in part, focused on answering the question of whether life exists beyond earth. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. As part of this, we consider how to search for biosignatures, observations we can make of other planets which might betray the presence of life. We look for things like anomalous gases in the atmospheres of planets, and other anomalies which may possibly reveal the presence of life. When we discover such an anomaly, we don’t conclude that we’ve discovered life, we seek more data to understand what we’re seeing. Often this leads to other new discoveries.

Similarly, we can talk about looking for techno signatures. Observations we can make, which might reveal the presence of technological activity somewhere else. NASA’s also supporting some research studying techno signatures. While there is at present, no evidence, we’re aware of, suggesting an extraterrestrial source for UAPs, these existing NASA programs are relevant to the question of UAPs in at least two ways. First, researchers in astrobiology and SETI, the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence, have focused for many years on techniques and methods for identifying anomalous signatures and determining if they have mundane, natural explanations as opposed to revealing unknown biological or even technological activity. The SETI community has expertise in methodologies for determining whether a potential techno signature is in fact a natural phenomenon or misinterpreted terrestrial technology. When a possible techno signature is observed, we ask, is it a real signal? Is it a known or unknown natural phenomena? Must it be technological? Is it known terrestrial technology? These scientific communities have relevant experience in determining and communicating about whether observations, which first appear to reveal extraordinary evidence, actually justify making extraordinary claims.

Second, if we do acknowledge an extraterrestrial source, however unlikely, as one possibility for UAPs, then these objects must have traveled through the solar system to get here. Within the scientific community there’s a widespread, but by no means universal, belief that there are extraterrestrial civilizations. We have a well-developed rationale. There’s a lot of literature for discussing this, which I won’t go into now, in the interest of brevity, but it has to do with the vast numbers of exoplanets and the time scales of evolution and the possibility of convergent evolution on different planets leading to somewhat similar outcomes. It’s a fascinating subject, but the relevant point here is that the same rationale which supports the idea that extraterrestrial civilizations may exist and may be detectable, also supports the idea that finding extraterrestrial artifacts in our own solar system is at least plausible.

NASA is the lead agency for solar system exploration. It already has an active program of detecting objects in our solar neighborhood using both ground-based and space-based facilities. It could leverage those capabilities to search for objects in space with anomalous motion, anomalous trajectories, unusual light curves, anomalous spectral signatures or other characteristics. Most of the solar system has not been searched for artifacts or anomalies, and these modest data analysis efforts could potentially be applied to existing and planned planetary missions. The galaxy does not stop at the edge of the solar system, and the solar system does not stop at the top of the earth’s atmosphere. It’s all a continuum of possibilities, worthy of investigation.

If NASA applies the same rigorous methodology toward UAPs that it applies to the study of possible life elsewhere, then we stand to learn something new and interesting, whatever the ultimate explanation is of those phenomena.

That’s all I wanted to say right now.

David Spergle (02:36:51):

Now we have time for one or two comments or questions or thoughts.

Dr. Paula Bontempi (02:37:01):

Yeah. Thank you for that. It struck me, while you were speaking about biosignatures, that we do a lot of that type of analysis in our home planet in different capacities. It’s more of a comment, but I wondered your thoughts on bringing together those communities that might not work together and whether that would aid in, not only establishing what’s normal, but enabling the detection or maybe the understanding explanation of a UAP if reported.

David Grinspoon (02:37:36):

Absolutely. I mean, the focus of my talk was observations elsewhere, but in fact, most of what the field of astrobiology has to study is here on earth because after all, it’s our one example of an inhabited planet and it’s a little bit easier to get to make observations. Yes, any insights you have in that area or any suggestions for collaboration between those communities would be very valuable.

Shelley Wright (02:38:06):

Of course, NASA hasn’t been researching the techno signature field for very long. There’s been a stigma with techno signatures for many decades. Are there any lessons learned we can impose from the techno signature and the SETI community to the UAP and solar system studies?

David Grinspoon (02:38:26):

That’s a really good question. I guess the immediate thought it sparks in me is that, yeah, techno signatures were kind of kept at arm’s length for a long time by NASA, because of stigma. Ultimately can’t be kept away forever if you are an agency curiosity driven, trying to understand the whole universe. You have to move beyond stigmas and just try to honestly look at whatever evidence there is. I think in that broad sense, the same lesson ought to apply to UAPs.

Speaker 5 (02:39:05):

As someone who has been working in astrobiology and data sciences for some time now, it strikes me when both Dr. Bianco and you talked that the differences that seem to me between biosignatures and techno signatures fields and UAP field again relies on the data. Biosignatures and techno signatures, they have very well standardized data sets. They have been collecting data sets for some time, and they are able to apply machine learning, artificial intelligence algorithms. While it’s a totally different question with the UAPs in how we can apply artificial intelligence here. Again, just like Dr. Bianco, how she said, it’s about data standardization. I hope that the UAP field will learn how to work with the data from the biosignatures and techno signatures fields.

David Grinspoon (02:40:02):

Yeah. That’s a good point. The one point I pushed back on a little bit is whether techno signatures has a lot of data in that sense. The one part of techno signatures, which is looking for signals from radio and optical and that sort of thing that’s been associated with SETI for a long time, you’re right, there’s a lot of data there that we’ve been collecting, but the term techno signatures is sort of newly being adopted. In a way it reminds me of the distinction we heard from the FAA about a cooperative and non-cooperative.

With techno signatures, there’s more of an emphasis on finding technology that is not necessarily intended to signal us, but just sort of doing what technology does and finding ways to … It’s not looking for signals as much. In that domain we have not necessarily been collecting information for that long. Your point is well taken that there are lessons learned from certainly the astrobiology and the sort of classical SETI field where we’ve had a lot of data and we could look at how that is analyzed and try to collect the data for UAPs that will be amenable to that same sort of analysis.

David Spergle (02:41:12):

Great. Thank you. Karlin’s next.

Karlin Toner (02:41:24):

Hello, everybody. I’m Karlin Toner. I’m an aerospace engineer. It really struck me when Dr. Drake opened up this afternoon and talked about this really small needle in a really big haystack that we’re looking for. I’m going to talk to you about reporting, a theme that we’ve heard a lot. How can we make that haystack smaller and that needle bigger?

Reporting of UAP events has received a lot of attention recently, but I think that there are still barriers for people to report. How or where should they report? Will someone take action on their report? Will the reporter be believed or will they be shamed? We’ve heard over the course of our fact finding that many scientists and aviators consider the study of UAPs to be fringe, at best. This suggests there’s a significant negative stigma associated with reporting or even researching such phenomena.

That said, by encouraging military aviators to disclose anomalies that they’ve seen or detected, the Department of Defense is receiving many more reports. I think in the time that we’ve been looking at this topic, growing from an ODII report that was something like 500 to I think this morning we heard something like 800 now. That’s accelerating. DOD will soon also mandate, if not already, reporting by pilots, which will even grow that set.

I would propose to this panel that NASA can help make it safer for researchers to explore data in the civil airspace domain simply by starting that work internally. NASA could look at how civil anomaly data is shared, study how to incentivize reporting, assess the possibility of crowdsourcing data, which I think we’ve heard a bit about this afternoon, or sponsor and participate in conferences on UAP detection. Our team has really only seen, I’d say, a few unclassified images of UAP, which lack the contextual data that’s needed to understand their true nature. I believe we’ve heard a single firsthand account from a former military aviator. One of my colleagues, Josh has an example to show just why it would be important for NASA to also help shape how the data and information is reported.

Before I turn the mic over to Josh, I want to make a recommendation to my fellow panelists that we consider advising NASA to more fully assess the cultural and social barriers to studying and reporting UAP, and for NASA to implement a plan to leverage its brand image to start removing these obstacles.

David Spergle (02:44:29):

Josh, why don’t you go up and then we’ll take discussion.

Speaker 3 (02:44:35):

[inaudible 02:44:36] slide deck if you want.

Mike Freie (02:44:50):

It’s not the charge of our panel to evaluate UAP evidence, but part of our statement of task is to assess the scientific analysis techniques that are available. You don’t have to start it just yet. And how we might use them to determine physical constraints on UAP.

The UAP reports with the most detailed, contextual informations are the ones from the Navy aviators. They’re using a combination of ranging and infrared imaging information. For these cases, we can directly calculate critical parameters of a UAP such as altitude and velocity under certain assumptions. The main point I want to make here is that this multi-sensor approach is absolutely critical to charting a path forward for UAP investigations, and that pertains to NASA as well.

I’m going to provide one example here just to illustrate the crucial role of science and scientific analysis, and the role of scientific analysis to avoid misinterpretation in some sense.

Next, Bill. Hit space. Yeah. Okay. This video was recorded by pilots deployed from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in 2015. The example has been given the nickname Go Fast, because it gives an impression of an object moving very rapidly against the ocean surface. The question is, is this impression correct? If not, what can we say quantitatively about what that object is doing in kind of earth centered coordinate system? Fortunately, the information needed to determine the altitude and velocity of this object is contained on the display.

Go ahead and next.

This includes the elevation angle of the camera, the azimuth angle of the camera, the target range in nautical miles, aircraft altitude, the time reference in seconds, indicated air speed in knots. This information and this video in particular has been discussed quite a bit on the web. Let’s begin with the object altitude. Next, please.

Knowing the jet’s altitude and the bearing to the target, we can apply basic trigonometry to figure out where that object is in altitude space. Provided the range information is accurate, which can have some uncertainties associated with it, but the object appears to be at about 13,000 feet. An important aspect of this here is that it’s sort of midway between the jet and the ocean. The ocean that looks like it’s right behind, it is actually 4.2 miles away. This is our first indication that some or most of the motion that we observe, the apparent motion of the object, is in fact due to the rapid motion of the sensing platform, which is about 430 miles per hour in this case. We don’t have to guess about this. We have enough information on this display to actually reconstruct the encounter. Go to the next slide, please. This is what this is. This is using additional information on the screen, including the time axis. We know that this aircraft is banking about 15 degrees left. You can compute through a simple calculator of the approximate radius of curvature of the flight. The bottom line is, I won’t go into detail here, but if you can get the bearing and range to the target, at two locations with known separation in time, you can figure out how far it moved. In this case, this object moved about 390 meters in 22 seconds. That corresponds to velocity of just 40 miles per hour. That’s a velocity that is consistent with wind speeds at 13,000 feet.

It’s not our task to conjecture what this object is, but it’s an example that illustrates the type of data needed to determine critical parameters that will help us identify such objects going forward. In addition to the importance of quantitative analysis, this example also serves to illustrate the kind of cognitive bias we have to contend with for UAPs recorded from unfamiliar perspectives. Sean Kirkpatrick showed another example of that. This is a parallax effect case. Thank you. Any questions?

David Spergle (02:49:34):

Thanks. Actually, before we have questions, this is actually a good moment to Sean to want to comment on one of the questions. We’ll bring Sean up and then take questions for everybody on more discussion.

Sean Kirkpatrick (02:49:54):

Thanks. That was actually very helpful for everyone, I’m sure. Just one piece of clarification on the video that we showed, the second one, that was the newly released one, had the three aircraft in it. The question was asked about if it was a stabilized background against which the jitter was showing. I am not a hundred percent certain of that answer. It might just be a bunch of dust on that sensor, but let me go back and get you a more fullsome answer. It is either stabilized background or it’s just garbage, but in either event, the three aircraft are jittering, because of the platform. That’s another example of exactly what you’re saying, right? It’s the perception of the operator who thinks it’s doing something else, when it’s actually just your own camera.

Mike Freie (02:50:43):

Yeah. Sean, in your event, it seemed to me that what you mean by jitter in this case is the plane is actually making motions that are causing a parallax.

Sean Kirkpatrick (02:50:52):

It’s actually more than that. The plane will move and that’ll cause the parallax that you just showed, but the sensor itself, a lot of these cameras are in gimbals. For those of you not certain what a gimbal is, it’s the thing that your cameras sit on, your telescopes sit on, it moves it around in different directions. Those can sometimes be stabilized, in which case they damp out the motion of the platform, and in other cases they’re not, and they jump around. What you’re actually seeing in that video is what we call jitter of the sensor against the platform. The platform’s moving and the sensor is moving. It’s not stabilized against the target. Once it’s collected, sometimes in processing, the background is stabilized frame to frame, just like some of those TikTok videos you see. Same idea.

Scott (02:51:51):

Yeah. I just wanted to jump in here. I think make a couple of comments to just follow up on what Josh said. In my experience of flying over 15,000 hours, 30 something years in airplanes and both in space. The environment that we fly in, space, or an atmospheric flight, very, very conducive to optical illusions. I get it why these pilots would look at that Go Fast video and think it was going really, really fast. I remember one time I was flying in the warning areas off of Virginia Beach, military operating area there. My [inaudible 02:52:32] thought, the guy that sits in the back of the Tomcat, was convinced we flew by a UFO. I didn’t see it. We turned around, we went to go look at it. It turns out it was Bart Simpson. A balloon.

Oftentimes in space, I would see things and I was like, “Oh, that’s really not behaving like it should. It doesn’t have a trajectory of a satellite or a planet on the back of the starfield.” Every single time when I would look at it long enough, I would realize that it was atmospheric lensing. It was the fact that what I was looking at was actually flying behind the atmosphere, and because of variations in the atmosphere, it made the trajectory look like it wasn’t going in a straight line. It was going like this, and it would go like that and it would turn in the other direction. Was always the case.

My brother, Mark Kelly, a former NASA astronaut and also now a US senator, I was with him for dinner last night and he shared a story with me again that he had shared years ago, but I had kind of forgotten about it. I think it’s worth sharing. That is, when he was the commander of SDS 124, I think it was, in 2008, they were getting ready to close the payload bay doors of the space shuttle. Before they do that, you’ve got to make sure nothing interferes with the doors, because if the doors don’t close properly, the space shuttle can’t reenter the atmosphere. It would come apart. It’s part of the structural integrity of the vehicle.

They see something in the payload bay. They thought it was a tool maybe, a bolt. They couldn’t quite figure it out. They were potentially going to have to go and do a space walk to retrieve it. Before they did that, my brother grabbed a camera, they took a picture of it, and when they blew up the picture, they realized that this is not a bolt or a tool in the payload bay, it was actually the International Space Station that was 80 miles away. I mean, that’s just a really good example of how this environment we operate in is so, so conducive to optical illusions. Oftentimes, guys fly into the water. I mean, there are cases where pilots have rendezvoused on a buoy, because they thought that was their wingman. It’s just very, very challenging environment to work in, especially at night.

Scott (02:55:00):

And in my experience, the sensors kind of have the same issues as the people’s eyeballs.

Mike Gold (02:55:12):

So per what Scott just said, I think we need to take it as an action to investigate unidentified animated phenomena, to go after Bart Simpson. I think what Josh and Scott said is very, very helpful and shows why we need multiple sources of data. Were there radar hits? Were there other sightings? Unless we can look at this from a holistic perspective, it’s very difficult to draw conclusions. And relative to stigma, and I appreciate the reports that our colleagues gave, I think there’s plenty of stigma right here in this building and I’m sure Tan, you’ve suffered from it at times. And I just want to commend administrator, although who’s always be Senator Nelson to me, for his leadership and candidly courage in getting an NASA to tackle this issue. And as we look at what Sean had articulated that what he wants an NASA to do, as we look at the recommendations for reporting and how we need to collate that reporting, I’m very concerned that this could be effectively done on an ad hoc basis.

I’ve been a part of far too many panels and studies that end up sitting on the shelf. I don’t want this to be one of those exercises. And we can discuss this further, but I would call for and recommend a permanent office within NASA to support this activity, albeit likely a modest one. But to collate this information, collate that data, to archive the information and act as the open forward facing counterpart to Sean and AARO. I think then we could continue and actually accomplish the reporting, the stigma issues that have been raised, and we could do so in a relatively affordable fashion. Because again, I don’t want all of our work to end up being in vain.

David Spergle (02:57:05):

Good. So now Jen’s going to turn to our charge.

Nicola Fox (02:57:09):

I am. [inaudible 02:57:13]-

David Spergle (02:57:14):

As a panel when we were convened with a set of questions that we were charged to address, we’ve been addressing them through the topics we’ve talked about and through things as we’ve been thinking this through. But we’re going to organize the next part of the discussion with Jen presenting these things. And this is also a chance to get into some of the discussion phase because we can look at each of these questions as the topics that we want to make sure we address as part of the report. Jen.

Nicola Fox (02:57:47):

Thanks David. And I want to thank the panelists all for all of your work, all of the knowledge that I’ve gained from each of you through this time. I took it upon myself in preparing for today’s meeting to draft a statement that answers the eight questions that we were provided at the beginning of last summer when the panel was created. So I’m going to read the question out loud. I’m going to read my statement and I’m going to pause, let you think and reflect. Remember this isn’t all of the details associated with each of these answers. This is to be a kind of high level, make sure we’ve got the major points there. And this is an initial take for these answers.

So the first question goes, what types of scientific data currently collected and archived by NASA or other civilian government entities should be synthesized and analyzed prior to potentially shed light on the nature and origins of UAP? So the panel reviewed data sources, analytic tools, data architectures from NASA, NOAA, FAA commerce and others. The data that we recognized were not collected for the purpose of identifying UAP, which leaves bias in the data that was collected. Even though there is an immense amount of data available, it is hard to access and the sensors that were used were not well calibrated for identifying anomalous phenomena. No questions. Moving forward.

Question number two, I kind of feel like jeopardy, what types of scientific data currently collected and held by nonprofits and companies should be synthesized and analyzed to potentially shed light on the nature and origins of UAP? Many organizations exist to track sightings of anomalous phenomena in the Earth’s atmosphere, both nonprofit for-profit and otherwise. The study panel concluded that much of the inputs collected by these organizations are not considered scientific data in nature, and that they do not contain unbiased information, they’re not repeatable and they typically come with eyewitness accounts, which we’ve heard even today that there’s hesitations with using only eyewitness accounts to recognize or identify UAP. To the point about commercial or companies, there are a lot of space companies that some lobbied hard to get in to present to us. They have troves of data, but they’re collected for a variety of different purposes than the purpose of UAP. And those systems, while they are well calibrated, are only one source of many that could be used. Questions, comments, concerns? Yes, Karlin.

Karlin Toner (03:01:02):

I’ll bite on that one, Jen. I think your answer, is correct as to what we’ve seen, but where I would go is if we made a recommendation to NASA that we’re really asking them to build a roadmap and we haven’t done a robust cataloging. We’ve looked at sources, mentioned sources that we think might be relevant, but perhaps a more robust effort cataloging would be a good modest start.

Nicola Fox (03:01:32):

Yeah, that’s good. I will only in slight defense of trying to answer the exact question as posed to the panel rather than trying to add recommendations at this point. But yes, point well taken. Thank you.

David Spergle (03:01:45):

Yeah, I mean I think one of the data sets that we just learned about, heard more about today and thinking about sort of calibrating things is the FAA data on tracking events. And I think this is something where if we had some imaging software, citizen scientists with cell phone cameras identify some event that looks interesting, one of the places you’d be able to turn is the FAA data. If there is, to go back to having a NASA responsibility for data, NASA has a lot of experience in serving as a clearing house for data from across the government for civilian data. This is something we do in lots of different areas. I think there are some opportunities with data sets there. And I think the radar data is one that comes to mind as one we don’t want to forget about as an available dataset.

Nicola Fox (03:02:47):

Yeah, absolutely. Question three I think goes more towards the recommendations of what other types of scientific data should be collected by NASA to enhance the potential for developing an understanding of the nature and origins of UAP. So we’ve heard now from two of the panelists on some of the information that should be collected or the way that some of that data should be organized in a manner to make it available for people to analyze that information. And the only other thoughts that I had here was really recognizing the difference in the sensor thresholds. So we can’t always tune a sensor all the way to the resolution that we might need or we might want. And as we collect that data to recognize for the scientists that are doing those analyses the bounds of each of the systems that they’re using. Yeah?

Dr. Paula Bontempi (03:03:52):

What strikes me on that one when you were reading the answer, the proposed answer, was what may be new, may be something that’s new to NASA in the sense of a time series so we can know what’s normal, so we can perhaps identify what’s not normal or anomalous. So I’m not sure to what extent… It’s like the most un-sexy thing to sell on the face of the planet is making consistent long-term observations. But I think that the agency may be set up to do just that for multiple reasons. Right?

Nicola Fox (03:04:29):

Yeah. Persistent data collection.

Federico Bianco (03:04:32):

The agency does that in a lot of cases for us for physical purposes, of course pointing up and pointing at a different distance. But the infrastructure for collecting this kind of data, organizing and keeping it, that does exist.

Nicola Fox (03:04:46):

Yeah. There are, in their defense, a lot of satellite companies that are doing that persistent collection as well.

Okay. Question four, which scientific analysis techniques currently in production could be employed to assess the nature and origins of UAP? Which types of analysis techniques should be developed? So this is a two part with what exists today and what should be, so we’re looking also at recommendations. Based on the information provided by the presenters to the panel there are very few credible analysis techniques available that currently exist to assess the nature and origins of UAP. The onset of artificial intelligence and automated analysis techniques give promise to being able to do that in the future.

Federico Bianco (03:05:43):

I wanted to add something to that perhaps, which is that really to design the analysis, you need to know what the data looks like, right?

Nicola Fox (03:05:50):


Federico Bianco (03:05:50):

So we can’t really say what kind of analysis should be created on the hypothetical data that we are recommending, it should be collected in a somewhat specified fashion.

Nicola Fox (03:06:03):

If it’s all hypothetical and we want to collect all of this data and we know what format it’s going to be in, we can design analysis techniques around it.

Federico Bianco (03:06:10):

And at that point it’s likely that there are analysis techniques that already exist.

Nicola Fox (03:06:14):


Federico Bianco (03:06:16):

… There’s a wealth of anomaly detection work. We just don’t know which one will be most suitable because the data as it should be, doesn’t exist yet.

Nicola Fox (03:06:23):


Walter (03:06:24):

She said exactly what I was going to say.

Nicola Fox (03:06:26):

That’s what I was getting at with my point. Not that those analysis techniques don’t exist in the scientific community, just that they’re not being applied to this problem set right now and it’s hard to apply them when we don’t have the known data of what would go into those. David.

David Spergle (03:06:42):

Yeah, I think something we want to stress here is the importance of uniform data in the way it’s collected. Because particularly when you’re looking for outliers, if you have data coming from many different observing techniques and just having a uniform set of cameras, a uniform set of detectors so you understand and characterize them, right, because this is a needle in the haystack problem and every camera… I mean, I’d mentioned in the opening session, ghosting in optics. That’s going to be different in every different detector. And before we get to the analysis techniques, we want to make sure we design the data collection so that the analysis techniques can effectively be used on it.

Walter (03:07:30):

David, can I take a slight issue with that? Which is it sounds like you’re implying that you need a single way of collecting the data. I’d argue it’s really you need to understand the various ways in which you’re collecting the data and you’re able to cross calibrate across those different approaches. Because I seriously doubt that there is a single detector.

David Spergle (03:07:54):

I think a handful of ways so that you’re… Well characterized. Things need to be well characterized to be useful I guess is the way I would state it. It takes time and energy to well characterized things. So that’s, I think, the challenge.

Speaker 5 (03:08:11):

So following up on both your points, I think it’s where we can actually apply artificial intelligence. So we cannot apply artificial intelligence on the current data, but we can apply artificial intelligence in a way that we can design characteristics for the data that we need and how we can collect the data that we need.

Mike Gold (03:08:33):

This is probably more of a frustration than anything else, so I don’t know how helpful it’ll be. But I think we’re not looking for a needle in haystack, we’re looking for a anomaly in haystack. We don’t even know that we’re looking for a needle that-

Nicola Fox (03:08:46):

It’s just a discolored piece of hay.

Mike Gold (03:08:48):

I’m from Montana, so I love good hay analogy. I don’t know what the phenomenology is that we’re looking for. We say anomalous. Again, this question earlier, what does that mean? Anomalous acceleration? I think as we try to look at the data, we’re starting from an almost impossible position when if we don’t know what we’re looking for, is it a radiation signature? Is it something electromagnetic? That is why this is so challenging and frustrating to me that we’re talking about monitoring something that we don’t even know what we’re supposed to monitor.

Nicola Fox (03:09:21):

And let me just offer, Josh, before you jump in, the scientific process of hypothesis driven research. That while we don’t know all of the possible outcomes in the entire world, we can ask very specific questions and go about it in a very scientific process to understand. So you’re right, we don’t know exactly what we’re looking for, but we know hotspots as we’ve seen from both FAA and Aero. We do know some of those conditions that we might be looking for. So if you start with what or places to start to go and look and you start with the data that we have available to us, we might start being able to untangle the chicken and egg problem.

Mike Gold (03:10:11):

Jen, what is the phenomena that we’re looking for?

Nicola Fox (03:10:16):

So we’ve heard them from Sean. I would pull up Sean’s chart, but I can’t quickly do that, of the criteria that he said on the trends. I use word criteria, he said trends, of six or seven phenomena I guess of specific size or within a specific motion range. It’s something different than what we’ve seen before. It’s something we don’t recognize. And so when you go to look for something that you don’t recognize, it can be pretty easy in that we’ve fooled ourselves today and even watching some of these videos of what’s going on. But when you’re able to corroborate that with three or four other sources, it starts to make sense. So something that looks like magic to the naked eye or to that camera and that sensor isn’t once you understand all of the effects of what was going on in the surrounding environment.

Speaker 4 (03:11:17):

Kind of question, because I got the same frustration you do. Regardless of what you’re looking for if you don’t know what it is, whether you’re using AI or match filtering techniques, you can’t find it. You can’t find it. So because the question I have is can we use social media, that kind of thing as a way of queuing to know where something’s happening. ‘Cause we know Google surges can lead you to better understand where outbreaks happen, disease outbreaks. Can you use similar type of conflation of data to start saying, well something’s going on here, let’s start queuing sensors in that area that requires some real time capability, but is that something we can think about?

Federico Bianco (03:11:53):

Can I object to that just a bit?

Speaker 4 (03:11:54):

Of course.

Federico Bianco (03:11:56):

You can find things that you don’t know how they look.

Speaker 4 (03:11:58):


Federico Bianco (03:12:00):

A lot of the algorithms in anomaly detection are really based on let’s find out how what we know looks like so that anything that doesn’t look like that can be identified and spotted and then we can think whether or not we understand it. And so I think the point about the homogeneous detectors really is about that. We need to have a solid understanding of the normal to detect the anomal or the outliers as we sometimes perhaps more often call them in science, right?

Nicola Fox (03:12:30):

Yeah. Absolutely. I do want to be cautious of time. We were supposed to end this about 10 minutes ago.

David Spergle (03:12:37):

Right. This is drifted into discussion, but I think we’re doing discussion. So do you have any last topic you want to hit? If not, then we’ll just open up to general discussion.

Nicola Fox (03:12:45):

I have four more questions that we’re technically supposed to answer.

David Spergle (03:12:48):

All right, let’s do one.

Nicola Fox (03:12:52):

We can do four questions in two minutes, right?

Speaker 6 (03:12:54):

Do four in two minutes.

David Spergle (03:12:56):

Four in two minutes, yeah. Fast.

Nicola Fox (03:12:57):

Speed round. In considering all of the factors above what basic physical constraints can be placed on the nature and origins of UAP, Mike, would you like to take this question?

Mike Gold (03:13:06):

Absolutely. Needle in the haystack.

Nicola Fox (03:13:11):

Okay, got it. I, in my notes to answer this, knew that Sean had presented some trends, so I used that kind of as the basis for what basic physical constraints could be available. And also Josh’s presentation that he just presented of, we know some of these are still in the realm of understanding, we just haven’t applied basic physics to understand what’s there, what we have.

Question six, what civilian airspace data related to UAPs have been collected by government agencies and are available for analysis to, A, inform efforts to better understand the nature and origins of UAPs and, B, determine the risk of UAPs to the national airspace? So we saw some of this, I’m going to use examples from today to kind of move quickly, some of this in Mike Free’s presentation, talking about the air risks that FAA is always looking out for. We know by altitude and by sensor and curvature of the Earth and line of sight, and as you get higher that you can see more. So we have a lot of civilian airspace data that can start to understand the nature and origins of the UAP. And determining the risk is based on how much you know. So, I go straight to space and I think about satellites and one tiny piece of space debris can destroy an entire satellite because they’re moving really, really fast in the vacuum of space. It’s not necessarily so true in airspace. But, something that we don’t know could have a severe impact on pilots and their flight plan and all of that, which then could really wreak havoc on all of the United States airspace. And so being able to understand and identify what those phenomena are will help de-risk the air flight safety in the national airspace.

Question seven, what current reporting protocols and air traffic management data acquisition systems can be modified to acquire additional data on past and future UAPs? We’ve heard a lot of the reporting structures it was talked about earlier today, those probably can be adapted and improved. And it’s up to us in discussion as the panel on what those recommendations might be.

Question eight and I’ll get off-stage, what potential enhancements to the future air traffic management development efforts can be recommended to acquire data concerning future reported UAPs to assist in the effort to better understand the nature and origins of the UAPs? The potential enhancements, automatic filtering of the knowns has come up as a talking point. These are specific really to acquiring data, the tuning of those sensor platforms, the multimodal spectrum collection, and being able to kind of timestamp or geostamp each of those to corroborate the sightings. So I will leave the panel with that with time to continue discussion.

David Spergle (03:16:44):

Thank you.

Nicola Fox (03:16:46):


Dan Evans (03:16:46):

[inaudible 03:16:47]

David Spergle (03:16:47):


Dan Evans (03:16:47):

[inaudible 03:16:49] podium.

David Spergle (03:17:01):

Okay, great. Let me lead the discussion from there. But before I open it up, I just wanted to restate Federica’s answer to Mike for hay. If you know the properties of hay very well and you can go through your haystack and say, I don’t know what this is, but it doesn’t look like hay. You don’t need to have a match filter looking for needle in a haystack if you know hay very well.

Mike Gold (03:17:26):

And who said NASA couldn’t speak to middle America?

David Spergle (03:17:33):

Now as a New York City resident, my impression is if you go through hay, you don’t want to do it with your hands. But I defer to you.

Mike Gold (03:17:47):

We have no choice, but AI/ML would be good.

David Spergle (03:17:49):

Yeah. So I want to, in the final minutes we have here before the public session, look to the future. I think a lot of us have looked at the data we have now with a sense of dissatisfaction and say, what data would you want and how would you want to collect it? And just think about, we don’t need to design the detectors, but think about the characterization that we’d like what wavelengths we’d like, and just to kind of throw that out as a one way to think about what we might want to recommend. Paula.

Dr. Paula Bontempi (03:18:35):

So one thing that strikes me in that question is that I’m not totally certain that we’ve dedicated our time and effort to looking for anomalies. I think by default there are some science communities that look for things like the genesis of a hurricane or a harmful algal bloom in the ocean or something in interstellar space. But I’m not sure we ever focused our interdisciplinary effort on that. And I think the question you ask is a really interesting one, part of our statement of task, but I’m not sure I can answer that quite yet. That’s how I feel about that one.

David Spergle (03:19:15):


Shelley Wright (03:19:18):

Shelley Wright. Yeah. Going along with Dr. Bontempi’s point there, we heard a lot from Aero about specifics about the needle, one to four meters in size, zero to Mach Two. You can then look at NASA’s assets and look at its spatial resolution, its spectral resolution in particular, the frame rate, I’m going to get to your question here, Dr. Spergel. You can look at the current NASA assets and try to say which ones could find that needle, the ones that Dr. Kirkpatrick put forward. That analysis has not been done. So one of my recommendations would be for NASA to convene a group and a task force to look at its current assets to calculate what current available data, current data, and current facilities could answer insight into that.

Now to get to your future question, looking at this, I see Walter here, is frame rate. I see a really big issue with frame rate. So if you want to catch fast moving objects, you need to take quick images. If you want to get to these very small sizes and resolution, depending on altitude where you’re taking your image from ground or space, NASA will likely have to increase its frame rate into its detectors.

Walter (03:20:41):

Short answer to what NASA’s current assets would be able to see would be really big haystacks that are moving very slowly, which I think is the point that you’re making. But that doesn’t mean that that data is not useful because if it’s able to characterize the background extremely well, that gives you a better idea of what unusual looks like. Basically, anything that you do that characterizes the background will contribute to an understanding.

David Spergle (03:21:10):

So we’re going to have to cut this off now because we’re now going to our public comment session. So turn that over.

Karen Fox (03:21:24):

Hello everybody. I am Karen Fox with NASA’s Office of Communications and we are segueing into the public Q&A portion of this meeting. As a reminder, this is a FACA meeting that is a Federal Advisory Committee Act. And so we are under guidance, which says that these meetings are public and that we take public questions.

We got hundreds and hundreds of questions and I just want to take a moment to say thank you to everybody who submitted them. We’re obviously not going to get to all of them today, but we are going to make attempts to answer some of them online. You can always check back to science.nasa.gov/uap where over time we will make it clear where we’re putting out some more of those answers. In the meantime, we did have to make some decisions. We stuck to questions that applied to this independent study and UAPs, there were a lot of questions about astrobiology and other subjects that we’re not going to get to today. And also in an attempt to get to as many of the questions as possible, since so many of them were similar, we’ve sort of bucketed them and that is how we’re going to try to address as many as possible. So I’m going to toss the questions to you and we’ll look to getting some answers for our public questions.

All right. So first set of questions are specifically about the data being used. So examples, what exactly are you incorporating into your report? What data are we using? What are some examples of data being used? Do we have multi- sensor data or of objects performing maneuvers that seem truly anomalous? Do we have photos, videos? What about having the NASA historian go through the NASA’s historical records? Did you interview military or pilots for this study? So looking for some information about the kinds of data. I can toss to anyone, David looks like he’s jumping in.

David Spergle (03:23:21):

Well, I think first and foremost, our goal here is really to create a roadmap. So really we have been informed by some of the events that are reported, but we’ve certainly not done a complete historical study in an archive. And I think one of the things we’ve wanted to do was learn what kinds of events have been reported, learn about some of the ones that have been resolved, some of the ones that are unresolved so we can best think about how in the future we can collect data so that we can get more robust answers. So, I hope that addressed that question.

Karen Fox (03:24:02):

It does.

David Spergle (03:24:04):

Others, have anything else they’d like to add?

Karen Fox (03:24:08):

All right. Another big question category was about transparency and about sharing information. And so examples in this category are what is NASA hiding and where are you hiding it? How much has been shared publicly? Has NASA ever cut the live NASA TV feed away from something? Has NASA released all UAP evidence it has ever received? What about NASA astronauts, do they have an NDA or clearance that does not allow them to speak about UAP sightings?

David Spergle (03:24:40):


Karen Fox (03:24:41):

What are the science overlords hiding? Dan Evans.

Dan Evans (03:24:48):

All right, I’ll take a stab at that one. I really want to assure the public, and to double down on some remarks I made this morning, that this agency is absolutely cast iron committed to openness and transparency and honesty. And that commitment also extends to our live NASA TV feeds. They provide real time footage from our various missions. Now, to my knowledge, NASA has never intentionally cut a live feed to hide anything, and that includes UAPs, of course. Sometimes there are interruptions to our feeds, but that is simply because space is a complex place. There’s a vast array of natural phenomena, human made objects and so forth.

But again, I wanted to reassure the public that we’re absolutely committed to providing the public transparency and openness. Those are the hallmarks of NASA. That’s why we are here today in public on TV, because we want the public to have the opportunity to see the process of this committee doing its work in public. It’s only right.

Scott (03:25:59):

Just to follow up on what I said, I didn’t mean to joke about it, but in my 20 years at NASA, no one either officially or unofficially in my recollection, have ever discussed or briefed us or had any kind of discussions about anything that would be considered a UAP or UFO or anything like that.

Karen Fox (03:26:26):

I’ll ask you to stand for one second and state your name just so everybody know who was speaking. It’s hard to see in the back.

Scott (03:26:30):

I’m sorry. Scott Kelly. I’m just following up on the question about if NASA astronauts ever signed an NDA or anything like that. In my experience of being in the astronaut office for 20 years, there was never any formal or informal discussions at all about UAPs or UFOs or anyone reporting anything that would suggest something from beyond our planet.

Karen Fox (03:27:05):

Thank you very much. Yes, please.

David Grinspoon (03:27:07):

Just want to make a quick comment about the culture of science in relation to this question. Scientists by nature are at least intellectually sort of rebellious. It’s in our nature to question authority. That’s how you’re a good scientist. You don’t just take someone’s word for it, you try to discover the truth. And for that reason, this question about what are the science of lords hiding, that’s sort of written in a facetious way. But I just want to emphasize that there’s no way that all scientists could be in on trying to hide something because it is just not in our nature. If somebody told me to try to hide something, as a scientist that would just increase my desire to belay that order and to release it. And I think that’s true of our community in general.

Karen Fox (03:27:59):

All right. Thank you so much. I am going to go on to our third set of questions, which is, has NASA been tracking Earth’s atmosphere or are we also studying bodies of water for UAP? I think that’s a Dan question.

David Spergle (03:28:14):

[inaudible 03:28:15] Paula question.

Karen Fox (03:28:15):

For NASA or…

Dr. Paula Bontempi (03:28:15):

Is that a me question?

David Spergle (03:28:17):


Karen Fox (03:28:18):


Dr. Paula Bontempi (03:28:18):

Here’s the oceanographer. So my understanding is this is a completely independent study to assess what assets, what data, what science, what observations, platforms, NASA has to potentially help evaluate and understand UAP. Well, NASA has an Earth science division and many scientists at many centers and many academics and other partners out there that study the Earth as a system. We do this from the unique vantage point of space and the atmosphere is part of that.

So, I think Dr. Kirkpatrick stated this morning that to his knowledge, and I think to ours, there isn’t anything that’s been reported below the ocean surface. And so I think part of what we’ve been talking about all day is what assets are out there to actually begin to identify data that could be useful in explaining any of these reports, if and should they come in. So I think that’s probably it, unless there’s something else to add.

Karen Fox (03:29:39):

All right then. Thank you. Moving on to our fourth general bucket of questions. What are you doing to solve the stigmatization surrounding the study of UAP?

Karlin Toner (03:29:53):

I can take that one

Karen Fox (03:29:55):

And state your name if you wouldn’t mind. First.

Karlin Toner (03:29:57):

Karlin Toner, FAA.

Karlin Toner (03:30:01):

I think the fact that NASA has called us together here as a panel to look into this, that NASA is hosting a public meeting, that we’ve heard it clearly stated, we’re here to be transparent. I think that’s the first step in trying to really normalize the study of UAPs.

And we talked a little bit earlier about the reporting, about how to make it credible. And we talked also about UAP in one of the earlier talks this morning, of the definition of the A, whether it was a aerial or anomalous, as the legislation now is. And really the distinction beyond UFOs, right? When we’re looking at UAPs here, we’re beyond just airplanes, we’re looking at all types of anomalous phenomena. And so that’s just a more inclusive term there.

Mike Gold (03:30:57):

Yeah, still Michael. Just wanted to emphasize what Karlin said, which is so accurate. I really consider it quite amazing that we’re here having this discussion as the leadership. It serves great kudos for this. And beyond, I think a recommendation that I’d like to make is that NASA participate in symposia, in panels, sponsor research. When you have the NASA logo, on that sponsored research, on the discussion, it really helps normalize and push back against the stigma.

I think NASA can leverage its excellent reputation, both domestically and abroad, to help push back on that stigma. And I think it’s important to do so, not just for science and discovery, but for national security, that we’ve all seen what’s occurred with balloons from rival nations. We don’t want this stigma to be a vulnerability that rival nations can take advantage of.

Karen Fox (03:31:48):

Yes, Dan?

Dan Evans (03:31:49):

Thanks, Karen. Just a few additional points from the agency perspective, we are of course taking a set of actions to effectively normalize the study of UAP. So that involves collaborating across the government, encouraging an open dialogue, and promoting rigorous scientific inquiry. Let me turn to each of those in turn.

So in terms of promoting a rigorous scientific inquiry, the primary way we’re doing this is by being truly rigorous and employing an evidence-based methodology in everything that we do. That is characteristic of scientific research. It’s no accident that the people up on this stage are true experts in their respective fields. So that is, in turn, going to help us to legitimize UAP studies.

Encouraging open dialogue. So by holding public meetings such as this one, and having open conversations about findings, then we’re helping to normalize discussions again. And that really goes arm-in-arm with our commitment to openness and transparency with the public. And then finally, in terms of collaborating across the government, we’re working very closely with other government agencies, not least Sean’s office, AARO, to broaden the scope and the depth of our study. And I honestly believe that this collective inter-agency approach will lend credibility to the study of UAPs, and it’s going to demonstrate the seriousness with which we’re approaching this issue. Thanks.

Karen Fox (03:33:25):

Well, that segues very nicely into what our next set of questions are, which is who we are working with. So the question is, who else is NASA currently working with, or do we want to work with, to study UAP? And is NASA working with international partners?

Dan Evans (03:33:46):

All right, do you want to do it?

Nicola Fox (03:33:48):

I’ll take a stab at it.

Dan Evans (03:33:49):


Nicola Fox (03:33:51):

As the questions tasked to this panel so kindly asked us, both in what other government agencies are collecting data, what data is available, NASA is partnering with them in many ways, as well as NASA has a wide commercial outreach and partnerships with understanding what data is available, as well as NASA’s founded on, well not founded, but the core principles of NASA are with international partners.

And so the information that our partners are gathering is typically available to NASA as well.

Mike Gold (03:34:33):


Nicola Fox (03:34:34):

So yes, on all accounts.

Mike Gold (03:34:35):

And I may just emphasize and add that NASA is singular, I believe, among government agencies in its international outreach. Again, not to keep talking about the Artemis Accords, but you see countries like Saudi Arabia that we may not have a great relationship with as a government right now, we have Saudi Arabia and Israel in the Accords family, so that NASA’s unique in its scope and ability to reach out.

I also think that we’re entering a new era of commercial space transportation that is going from lower earth orbit out to sis lunar space. And that is going to be the purview of the Department of Commerce, which is taking over space traffic management. So I think it’s very important that NASA work with and support commerce as we go through that transition. Department of Defense is currently responsible for that. And I think that will help us not only to identify potential UAPs, but to assist in preventing contention, congestion, and eventually conflict.

And I also want to note, in terms of space debris, debris in orbit right now I believe represents an existential threat to our very society, that we are getting very close to an event that could cause real problems for our ability to access satellites. And that’s why I think there’s great ancillary benefits to the conversation we’re having today, that as we increase our capability to monitor orbit for UAPs, that data could also be very relevant as we look at near earth objects and other threats.

And again, to just end on near earth objects, Apophis, for example, an asteroid is going to come so close to earth, it will be below geosynchronous satellites. So any effort to begin to catalog and do better, in terms of understanding that environment, is going to be terrific. And I hope NASA works with commerce and international agencies on Apophis and other missions.

Karen Fox (03:36:13):

I think Federica had something to say too.

Federico Bianco (03:36:17):

Yeah, I just wanted to add that a lot of the things that we think we might recommend, in terms of platforms to collect data that would be useful to study UAPs, we recommend the multi-platform and multi-site, that would also mean likely ground-based as well as space-based facilities. And this is being done already in astrophysics, co-observing the sky from the ground and from space with different methodologies and different instruments to get a more comprehensive picture of what’s normal and then detect what’s anomalous.

And about every 10 years, the scientific, the astrophysics communicating anyways, but many other branches, convene a panel of experts to see what things can be done to advance the field in the next decade. It’s called a decada survey for us. And one of the recommendations this year was, explicitly for agencies that do astrophysics to work together, so NSF, DOE, and NASA to work together, share data, share facilities and instruments. So I think there’s, a lot of fields will benefit from this, including the UAP studies.

Karen Fox (03:37:27):

Oh, absolutely.

Karlin Toner (03:37:30):

Karlin Toner, I’d like to put an exclamation point on how well NASA is collaborating across the government. I’m from the FAA, and I can personally attest that FAA and NASA have a robust engagement in transferring research into practice in the ATM system. I think on the commercial space side, we work well with NASA. And all of our agencies are in the whole of government approach supporting AARO specifically on UAP topic. And it really comes down to good government and how we deliver, because we can each work our own mission space, but to cover the whole space, we need to collaborate together.

Karen Fox (03:38:13):

And Dan.

Dan Evans (03:38:14):

To put an exclamation point on Karlin’s exclamation point, so I think it’s important to say that we really do have a good relationship with the auto main anomaly resolution office, AARO, Sean’s office and its previous or predecessor organization, the UAP task force. And we have really benefited from very fruitful collaborations among those various entities. And quite frankly, as a taxpayer, one should expect nothing less than the government to be working effectively across different units together. It’s only right.

That being said, it’s also important to acknowledge what NASA’s perspective is in this study, and to acknowledge that the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, have massively different equities about the study of UAP, and they have different interests. Ours is a purely scientific one. So we collaborate, we consult, it’s a very good relationship. And I agree wholeheartedly with Karlin, that a whole of government approach is absolutely the right one to take.

Karen Fox (03:39:22):

Great, thank you. I will move on to our sixth bucket of questions, which we had many on this topic. Is there evidence that UAP were created from non-human intelligence?

Dan Evans (03:39:36):

All right.

Karen Fox (03:39:37):

Yes, please.

Speaker 5 (03:39:39):

I will take this one. First and foremost, we are scientists and we follow the scientific process. And I hope that the gathering here today showed a little bit of a glimpse on how the scientific process works. It’s not a question that you can answer very quickly with yes or no, and we follow the data.

So as scientists, we follow the data, we formulate hypothesis, we test theories, we follow the scientific process. The role of this panel has been to create a roadmap and a framework for how all scientists that are interested in this phenomenon can further study, can further collect data, can further formulate experiments. Again, hypothesis can test different methods, maybe even innovate on the methodology side of things, come up with new methods for how we can do basically science, but not just any kind of science, but the science of discovery and exploration, which is basically in the spirit of NASA.

So just like Carl Sagan was saying, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” we cannot make that kind of extraordinary claims at all for any kind of big subjects in science, whether it’s UAPs, whether it’s bio signatures, whether it’s techno signatures. This question of whether we are alone in the universe is probably one of the largest questions that we’ve had in our history of science, in our history of humanity. And it’s not one that we can take lightly.

And that’s why we need so many scientists and multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary teams to work together, and many organizations. So it’s a process, it’s a roadmap, and we work collectively on this. And we hope that within our lifetime we will be able to answer this big question of whether we are alone or not. And also to better characterize this phenomenon which is UAPs.

David Spergle (03:41:53):

I want to supplement that excellent answer by noting that we have not seen the extraordinary evidence. I mean, in a sense, to make the claim that we see something that is evidence of non-human intelligence would require extraordinary evidence. And we have not seen that. I think that’s important to make clear.

Karen Fox (03:42:18):

All right, then I will move on to our seventh set of questions. We received many questions about the budget that is being dedicated to this. How large of a budget will NASA allocate? How large of a budget is NASA allocating? And how large of a budget will NASA allocate towards the study of UAPs? Dan?

Dan Evans (03:42:42):

Yeah, that’s a Dan question. So there are two separate questions in there, which is, what is the budget for this group, this team? And what is the budget going forward? I think.

Now the budget for this independent study team is very consistent with any other of our external review groups that we bring in to the science mission director on an annual basis. So we have maybe 100, 200 such groups entirely consistent with that. Also important to say going forward now that NASA has not established a program relative to UAP, and as a result there’s no associated programmatic funding. But this is how NASA works.

Federal budgeting is a complex journey, of course. And the way NASA, particularly NASA science, likes to work is we anticipate and await recommendations from independent groups such as this one, but we need to wait on final recommendations and then we’ll make an assessment. So too early to say, but of course that’s all couched in the fact that federal budgeting is a very complex process and we will always follow the law.

Karen Fox (03:43:49):

All right, we’re making good time. We have one more question that encompassed many of the ones we got, which is, has NASA encountered any aliens or extraterrestrial life? What happens if the public comes across extraterrestrial life? What would NASA do if extraterrestrial life was discovered? What would NASA study or do if extraterrestrial life was discovered?

Now I think it’s worth making a distinction that when we talk about extraterrestrial life, we do have a study within NASA of astrobiology, which is not intelligent life necessarily. And so I invite you as you answer this question to make clear the distinctions as you are talking, in terms of UAPs as well as any astrobiology work that we do.

David Spergle (03:44:37):

And I would start by saying one of NASA’s big questions is, is there life out there? And a lot of what NASA’s doing in its exploration of the solar system and beyond is focused on searching for life in any form, extraterrestrial life. I think one of the things we have learned in the past 20 years is planets are common. We knew, of course, about the planets in our solar system, but we now know there are lots of planets out there. So there are lots of potential environments for life. And I think one of the most fascinating questions is, do any of those planets host life? And that’s something that NASA is trying to address in a host of different ways, whether it’s probes that are landing on planets, or designing missions that will look for signatures of life around other planets. So the search for life is a really important theme.

We haven’t found life beyond Earth yet. Let’s be clear about this, we haven’t found it yet. But we’re looking and we’re looking for it in lots of different ways. And David was discussing techno signatures as one way that we can look both within our solar system and beyond. And there’s a lot of different elements I think of this potential search.

And just to go back to something that was phrased in an earlier question, is NASA hiding anything about this? No, this is actually what… Answering this question is one of the things that NASA as an agency is excited about. It’s something that lots of scientists working with NASA are excited about is this question of, is their life out there?

And I think one of the things that makes this question of, are we alone, such a central question, not just to the scientific community, it’s a central question I think for the public. I suspect there are more people watching this than the typical episode of NASA TV. And this is something where we will have media coming to the press conference because these questions touch on something that I think is really a deep question for humanity is, are we alone in the universe?

David Grinspoon (03:47:23):

Yeah. Just to echo what David said a bit, obviously this is something we think a lot about in astrobiology, what if we succeed? And we are very driven to try to find real evidence of extraterrestrial life. And we would be highly driven to share that if we found it, because everyone wants to show that they’ve been able to succeed in what they’re trying to do.

And one, perhaps illustrative example, is to think about what happened when we came close, when NASA thought maybe they had discovered extraterrestrial life. And a big event, actually in the history of astrobiology, was in the 1990s when some scientists had thought that they had discovered fossils in a meteorite that came from Mars. And what happens is you don’t announce that immediately, you try to make sure you’re right, because you don’t also don’t want to have false alarms and announce something where, and then you go, oops, sorry we were wrong. That was a mistaken analysis.

But what happened was, when the scientists were sure they were right, then there was a big, in fact, Presidential Press Conference with President Clinton and NASA, and it was a big public announcement. And that’s what would happen, if we discovered something, we would try to make sure we were right, and then we would very proudly and loudly let the public know about it.

Karen Fox (03:48:52):

Thanks. We have just one minute left, so I’ll let you finish up.

Dr. Paula Bontempi (03:48:55):

Yeah, thank you. The only thing I wanted to add, I wouldn’t at all in it to alien or extraterrestrial life, but in astrobiology and exobiology there is the exploration of our planet as an analog for what might be found on other worlds. And what is extreme cold, what is extreme heat, a volcano, a black smoker at the bottom of the ocean, what lives there and how is that even possible? And things we still discover throughout our ocean might look alien to a lot of people. And we keep discovering new species of different things, whether they be microbes, or algae, or charismatic megafauna, whatever they are. But there are synergies. I know there was an initiative years ago at NASA called Oceans Across the Solar System, and the idea was, could our own earth’s ocean be used and the life within it as an analog for what might be discovered elsewhere? So I think that’s an example of a potential synergy of interdisciplinary science, research observations, et cetera, collection of data and information gathering that could be useful in the future.

Karen Fox (03:50:07):

Thank you all so much. I will hand it back to David Spergel, your chair.

David Spergle (03:50:19):

So let me also just answer the one other piece of that question, was what do you do if you see something surprising? Where do you report? And this is something where, just to come back to something, I mention in my opening remarks, the AARO is our lead agency for UAPs.

And while we’ve talked about origin, life in this context, most UAPs, I think, and when one looks at the data in more detail, are going to turn out to be phenomenon we understand. We saw this with some of the balloons or commercial jets, we saw those examples. Some UAPs, and we saw this with the Chinese balloon that flew over, is something an issue, sometimes of national security. So we actually do want to encourage people just from that angle, to report it.

Before we’ll transition to summary, but I want to answer on that question, that to keep in mind that the AARO’S role is to be the prime source for understanding those things. And what our charge is, is to think about what’s NASA’s role. And I think NASA, and this is something I want to now go back to discussion, we didn’t have that much time for it, to come back to what we each see as NASA’s role in this.

I think one piece we’ve talked about is NASA can help remove the stigma, NASA can draw more of the scientific community in. And I think what NASA can help do is provide standards of high data quality. I think one of the things that many of us who’ve not looked at this before, I’d certainly put myself in this group, was struck by the limited nature of the data, that many events had insufficient data. And that in order to get a better understanding, we will need to have high quality data, data where we understand it’s provenance, data from multiple sensors.

And I think one of the things that, even from the same sensor, as we saw in Josh’s analysis, also in the event Sean showed us, when you can observe event over time, and get velocity information, that gives you a lot of additional information. So we’re going to want things with high frame rate, we’re going to want things from multiple perspectives. So I think those are all going to be pieces of things that we want to think about.

I think this is an opportunity for citizen science. I think if we can come up with recommendations in our roadmap that point to ways in which we can collect it, people can collect data. I remain a big fan of these things. They do take over our lives too much, but they are fabulous data collectors of, and I don’t know, there’s something like three 4 billion of them that are on the planet. And NASA I think has the prestige and visibility to develop an app or work with companies to develop apps that could collect data in a uniform and centralized way that I think will… Most of the stuff that’s collected is going to turn out to be commercial planes, balloons. When you have multiple cameras, you can eliminate some of the optical limitations of ghosting and those effects.

Some of them will almost certainly be novel physical phenomenon. I think we have learned a lot about our planet and how the universe works. There’s a lot we don’t know. I think as scientists, what is the most exciting thing is the surprises. And I think that there are things that continue to surprise us about our own planet. There’s phenomenon in our atmosphere and the ionosphere that we probably haven’t seen yet. Or perhaps we’ve seen and not noticed yet.

And there’s, I think, a long history in science, when you look back and you realize that this discovery had a pre discovery. People had seen something before and were missing it. And those pre discoveries were not of note, often because we had biases against seeing it, but often because there was limitations in data quality.

And one of the things I was taught is, when you have a question you don’t know how to answer, you start by getting better data. And we’re coming, I get to do the summary, and as the chair, I get to summarize a conclusion. We need better data, would be my takeaway. And we need more uniform data. And since I’m so proud of my haystack, we need to be able to understand what’s in the haystack. And it’s a lot more complicated than a haystack in a sense. As you know, it’s got commercial planes, it’s got drones. And I think the number of drones out there is large and growing and will be a continual source of confusion.

We were charged to think about air safety. Understanding and characterizing, seeing what’s going on with drones is also, I think, going to be an important air safety issue. So we’ll need, to understand the unknown, or start to study the unknown, another important piece is always going to be characterizing the known really well. And this is the part, I think, of a lot of science that seems dry and boring, but it’s calibration and understanding the events you expect to see.

In thinking about this area, one of the groups of people that people talk to are particle physicists doing experiments at CERN, where they go through the effort of finding extremely rare events to find new particles. And in order to do that you need to understand the standard predictions well. So I think another part of the whole story, and I know this is something ARO is working hard on in the context of military is, it’s like you’ve got to characterize what the known things are.

When you’ve got that F 35 flying past a balloon, what does it see? What does it see at sunset? What does it see at odd observing angles? And that characterizing the normal is an essential thing to do to understand what’s out there.

So let me conclude the session by thanking the panelists. It’s been a pleasure learning from you. Thanking Sean and our other invited speakers that we’ve had for some of our data collection sessions. We’ve learned a tremendous amount from you. And also thank the public for their engagement. I think we were all impressed by the number, and level, and sophistication of the questions people sent in. We tried to address as many as them that we could in the session. As you heard, NASA, through science.nasa.gov there will be some additional answers provided. Encourage you to go there.

Actually, as a non NASA employee, I’ll put in a little ad for science.nasa.gov. NASA does amazing things and we’re learning amazing things about the universe, and our planet. And just encourage you to go there and continue to learn and continue to explore. So thank you all.

Speaker 7 (03:59:51):

We are going. The history of this agency is marked with broken barriers once viewed as impossible, with science fiction turned reality, with innovations that have spun industries all their own, and with demonstrations of peace for all humankind.

Speaker 8 (04:00:19):

We soar in the skies of our home planet. We maintain a-

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