NASA’s study group of 16 experts ranging from physicists to astronauts was formed last June to examine unclassified UFO sightings and from civilian government and commercial sectors Unidentified metallic orb UFOs have been spotted ‘all over the world’, a Pentagon chief admitted today during NASA’s first-ever public hearing into the phenomenon. Physicist Dr Sean Kirkpatrick, director of the Pentagon’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), said: ‘We see these all over the world and we see these making very interesting apparent manoeuvres.’ Dr Kirkpatrick presented AARO’s latest findings to NASA’s independent team of scientists and other experts who have been tasked with studying the UFO phenomenon – which has become increasingly less stigmatised following several high-profile congressional hearings and military sightings. Scientists and policymakers from NASA’s independent panel also discussed their own proposed recommendations to the federal space agency, including: an active effort to remove the stigma surrounding UAP research, as well as a hunt for alien ‘artefacts’ within our solar system. Meanwhile, it was also revealed at today’s NASA hearing that the space agency will work closely with the Pentagon’s official UFO investigators on top secret UFO cases. Dr Kirkpatrick said that the Pentagon is closely collaborating with ‘NASA embeds,’ scientists who have been cleared for work on classified UAP cases where their expertise could help military investigators identify the mysterious craft or events. Kirkpatrick added that AARO plans to deploy ‘dedicated sensors for typical UAP’ sightings, equipment independent of the existing military defence sensors that have thus far picked up UAP evidence in the course of their normal duties. Both NASA’s head of science, the space and atmospheric physicist Dr Nicky Fox and AARO’s director, Dr Kirkpatrick, also took time to rebuke unnamed individuals for harassing members of the NASA panel. Both said that these attitudes, online and among officialdom, have contributed to the continuing social stigma surrounding UAP. NASA UAP study group member Karlin Toner, senior advisor for data policy integration of the FAA’s Office of Aviation Policy and Plans, recommended that the space agency work to ‘make it safer to explore data’ for any scientists facing the ‘negative stigma’ surrounding UAP. Toner suggested that the independent panel ‘consider advising NASA to more fully assess the cultural and social barriers to studying and reporting UAP,’ to effectively work hard to end the stigma on UAP research among the scientific community. NASA, she said, should ‘implement a plan to leverage its brand image to start removing these obstacles.’ Ultimately, however, as the chair of NASA’s independent UAP panel, theoretical astrophysicist David Spergel, described it, their group’s main purpose is to answer this one question: ‘How can NASA contribute to understanding the nature of UAPs?’ He summarised the current state of data collection efforts on UAP as ‘unsystematic’ and ‘fragmented across various agencies’ often using instruments that were fit for their security or safety mandate, but ‘uncalibrated for scientific data collection.’ Spergel added that some of the work done in this realm did achieve the admirable status of ‘citizen science.’ He cited previous anomalies, like the fantastic accounts of upward-going red lightning, or sprites, which had been first reported by shocked pilots and initially discounted by atmospheric scientists. ‘If it’s something that’s anomalous. That makes it interesting and worthy of study,’ Spergel said. But study group member Mike Gold, NASA’s former associate administrator for Space Policy and Partnerships, went even further. Gold, currently with the private space infrastructure firm Redwire, called on the agency to institute ‘a permanent office within NASA to support this activity’ the serious study of UAP. NASA’s study group, an assemblage of 16 experts ranging from physicists to astronauts, was formed last June to examine unclassified UFO sightings and other data collected from civilian government and commercial sectors. The study group represents the first such inquiry ever conducted by the US space agency into a subject the government had previously consigned to the purview of military and national security officials, when accorded respect or attention at all. Today, these parallel NASA and Pentagon efforts, both undertaken with some semblance of transparency, mark a turning point for in the government’s public stance on UFOs or UAP. After decades spent deflecting, debunking and discrediting sightings of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs, dating back to the 1940s, Pentagon officials now say that their recent push to investigate such sightings has led to hundreds of new reports that are under examination. Speaking to the NASA panel today, AARO director Kirkpatrick said that roughly 2 to 5 percent of AARO’s current database of approximately 800 UAP cases constituted real and baffling anomalies. Kirkpatrick’s report, as well as a presentation by an advisor to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Traffic Surveillance Services Office, Mike Freie, constituted the first major presentations during today’s public panel by NASA’s UAP study group. While NASA’s science mission was seen by some as promising a more open-minded approach to a topic long treated as taboo by the defence establishment, the US space agency made it known from the start that it was hardly leaping to any conclusions. ‘There is no evidence UAPs are extra-terrestrial in origin,’ NASA said in announcing the panel’s formation last June. In its more recent statements, the agency presented a new potential wrinkle to the UAP acronym itself, referring to it as an abbreviation for ‘unidentified anomalous phenomena.’ This suggested that sightings other than those that appeared airborne may be included. Still, NASA in announcing Wednesday’s meeting, said the space agency defines UAPs ‘as observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena from a scientific perspective.’ There were indications, however, that NASA may expand its interest in the subject far beyond Earth’s atmosphere. One member of the panel, astrobiologist David Grinspoon, an advisor to NASA on space exploration strategy, offered much more cosmic recommendations than his peers during today’s public meeting. Grinspoon noted that he and his colleagues’ search for ‘biosignatures’ and ‘technosignatures’ of extra-terrestrial life out in the wider universe could play a significant role by assisting and collaborating with the investigation of local UAP. ‘While at present there is no evidence suggesting an extra-terrestrial source for UAPs,’ Grinspoon said, ‘these existing NASA programs are relevant to the question.’ Grinspoon told the panel that it would be ‘plausible’ to find ‘extra-terrestrial artefacts’ made by an alien civilisation in our solar system. NASA, he said, should include attempts to search and identify any such artefacts in future planetary exploration missions.