NASA is taking “concrete action” to explore the potential threat of UFOs following the release of a landmark report into the phenomena.
The agency’s administrator, Bill Nelson, said it was time to “shift the conversation from sensationalist to science”, having received the recommendations of an independent panel tasked with looking into years of sightings.
While the 16-team panel stressed there is “no reason to conclude” that any sightings have been alien in origin, their report warned any mysterious flying objects were a “self-evident” threat to American airspace.
Their 33-page report said NASA should play a larger role in detecting such phenomena – and the agency has already appointed its first director of UFO research to lead the way.
NASA is also seeking to rename UFOs to UAPs (unidentified anomalous phenomena) to remove a “stigma” that can prevent people from reporting sightings.
Mr Nelson told a news briefing after the report’s release: “We are looking for signs of life, past and present, and it is in our DNA to explore and to ask why things are the way they are.”
He said “we all are entertained by Indiana Jones in the Amazon finding the crystal skull”, citing the impact of Hollywood and pop culture on people’s fascination with the topic.
“There’s a lot of folklore out there. That’s why we entered the arena: to get into this from a science point of view.”
Mr Nelson acknowledged that with billions of stars in billions of galaxies out there, another Earth could exist.
He said: “If you ask me if I believe there’s life in a universe that’s so vast that it’s hard for me to comprehend how big it is, my personal answer is yes.”
His own scientists put the likelihood of life on another Earth-like planet at “at least a trillion”.