At an unusual public meeting in Washington, a panel of experts appointed by NASA to look into the delicate issue of UFOs hammered Wednesday, May 31, the need to collect more data to explain these phenomena in the future.

"The existing data, and witness presentations, are insufficient to provide conclusive evidence about the nature and origin of each event," said David Spergel, an astrophysicist in charge of chairing this work. "We need high-quality data." A report is due to be published during the summer, detailing how to achieve this.

NASA announced last year the launch of this work, and appointed in October no less than 16 experts to lead it. Among them, eminent scientists, but also officials of the American regulator of civil aviation (FAA), or former astronaut Scott Kelly.

Their purpose is not to review "unidentified anomalous phenomena" - the official term used - in an attempt to explain one by one the events observed in the past. It is to make recommendations to NASA on how to study them rigorously in the future.

National security

Some 800 unidentified aerial phenomena have been collected so far, Sean Kirkpatrick, director of the Department of Defense's Office of Defense (AARO), said Wednesday. But "maybe between 2% and 5%" are "really abnormal," he said.

The subject is very serious, NASA said Wednesday: it concerns both national security and air traffic. But it also arouses a strong interest because of the term UFO, very connoted.

"Right now, we don't have any explicit data to suggest that there is a connection between unidentified anomalous phenomena and extraterrestrial life," said David Grinspoon, one of the scientists on the panel.

Nicola Fox, Associate Administrator at NASA, opened the session by condemning the online harassment of panel members.

The meeting, which lasted several hours on Wednesday, was broadcast live on the internet, and a portion was dedicated to questions from the public, submitted in advance online. This transparency is highlighted by the American space agency, which stresses the need to "de-stigmatize" the subject.

With AFP

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