NASA launches study of UFOs despite 'reputational risk'
The Kennedy Space Center of NASA in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. /CFP

The Kennedy Space Center of NASA in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. /CFP

The U.S. space agency NASA said on Thursday that it planned to assemble a team of scientists to examine unidentified flying objects (UFOs) by this fall, as part of a new push toward high-risk and high-impact science.

NASA considers this a first step in trying to explain mysterious sightings in the sky known as UAPs, or unidentified aerial phenomena. The study will begin this fall and last nine months, costing no more than $100,000, and it will be entirely open with no classified military data used.

The team will focus on how much information is publicly available on the matter and how much more is needed to understand the unexplained sightings. The experts will also consider how best to use all this information in the future.

NASA's science mission chief Thomas Zurbuchen acknowledged the traditional scientific community may see NASA as "kind of selling out" by venturing into the controversial topic, but he strongly disagrees.

"We are not shying away from reputational risk," Zurbuchen said during a National Academy of Sciences webcast. "Our strong belief is that the biggest challenge of these phenomena is that it's a data-poor field."

NASA said the team will be led by astrophysicist David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation for advancing scientific research. In a news conference, Spergel said the only preconceived notion going into the study is that the UAPs will likely have multiple explanations.

(With input from AP)

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