For the first time in more than 50 years, Congress held a public hearing on UFOs (which have been renamed UAPs, or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) on Tuesday. The hearing followed an unclassified report released by a Department of Defense task force last June and the establishment of a permanent PSU office at the Pentagon.
While it is good that Congress is finally taking this topic seriously, the hearing itself has not done enough to challenge one of the most limiting aspects when it comes to understanding UFOs. : regard them almost entirely as a matter of military interest.
Viewing UAPs only through a security lens means the military is likely to classify any finds that are truly extraordinary.
Although Representative André Carson, DN.Y., who lead the audience, stated in advance that its purpose was to explore the issue as “both a threat to national security and an interest of great importance to the American public”, the hearing focused on security and the information.
This was not surprising given that he stood before the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation and key witnesses included Ronald Moultrie, Undersecretary to Defense for Intelligence and Security, and Scott Bray, Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence. Tellingly, a classified hearing was held to follow the public hearing.
Since at least World War II, pilots have reported strange plane sightings, but last year’s report focused on incidents seen over the past two decades. This included Navy pilots’ descriptions of unidentified aerial craft that behaved in an “out of this world” manner. In other words, far beyond any known technology in the arsenal of the United States or its main military rivals, Russia and China, which each have their own programs for studying UFOs.
Last year, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., instructed the Director of Naval Intelligence to produce a classified report and an unclassified report on UAP observed by members of the military. The results were disappointing, doing little to determine if the craft could be of extraterrestrial (i.e., extraterrestrial) origin, even though the vast majority of sightings were confirmed to be objects whose nature could not be verified.
Tuesday’s public hearing proved as inconclusive as last year’s report, in part because many answers could only be given during the classified portion of the hearing. It has been revealed that one incident (of the roughly 400 currently being investigated by the task force) has been identified as a drone and, in one of the rare eyebrow-raising moments, there have been 11 near-misses with unidentified objects.
To really get to the bottom of what House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-California, calls “one of the greatest mysteries of our time,” Congress and the rest of government need to consider the matter. of UAP as fundamentally scientific. and not just a matter of military intelligence. They must invest adequate funding and other resources to explore something that could significantly affect our understanding of the universe.
Viewing UAPs only through a security lens means the military is likely to classify any finds that are truly extraordinary. Luis Elizondo, former head of the Pentagon’s UFO investigation unit, said what the public has seen so far is only the “tip of the spear”, and the late Harry Reid, former Senate Majority Leader once remarked that “only scratches the surface” of what was gathered. Yet witnesses said Tuesday that many details would only be released in the classified portion of the hearing. .
Moreover, the military can simply conclude that these unexplained phenomena are not a threat, which is one of the discoveries that led the Air Force to stop its exploration of UFOs in 1969. If so, it will become much more difficult to unravel this mystery.
This would be doubly problematic because, as I have already written, the subject is stigmatized in scientific circles. Even last year’s UAP report acknowledged that socio-cultural stigma needs to be mitigated for accurate reporting, which Carson also noted. Well-known astronomers, for example, have said they have no interest in getting to the bottom of this topic.
One scientist who has paid attention to this is Garry Nolan from Stanford University. Nolan told me that the lack of interest from his colleagues is holding back progress in understanding the phenomenon. He advanced mostly on his own, telling me that he funded 90% of his research through personal funds with no financial support from the government or Stanford.
But the government has an important role to play, and it must go beyond the Ministry of Defense. The National Science Foundation, whose mission is to advance basic research, has an annual budget of $8.8 billion. When I recently searched the NSF Artificial Intelligence Funding Database, I found over 50 open projects eligible for funding. When I searched for UAPs, there were exactly no results.
Private sources unfortunately do not fill the void. Harvard astronomy professor Avi Loeb recently raised nearly $2 million from private sources for the Galileo project to create a network of telescopes optimized for observing objects in our skies and to obtain unclassified scientific data to analyze. (Disclosure: I am an advisor to Project Galileo and other UFO-related projects, although I receive no financial return from them.) Loeb told me that to deploy enough telescopes to cover enough sky, they would need more than $100 million. , a number that is not unusual for publicly funded projects involving new telescopes.
The real problem with hiding the best UFO data in a secret corner of the Pentagon is that we won’t be able to lay the necessary basic science. Science relies on the publication of data and theories based on that data that can be analyzed, debated, and verified by multiple groups of scientists building on the work of others.
This process has only just begun with UFOs. We are still at the level of understanding of the atom we had in 1900, when the concept of the atomic bomb and atomic energy was considered science fiction more appropriate for a HG Wells story than a serious academic attention.
Today, many scientists are still of the opinion that most if not all UFO sightings are misidentifications of ordinary objects like weather balloons by unreliable witnesses. Yet in last year’s report, of 144 military sightings – 80 of which were captured by multiple sensors – 143 remained unexplained. Only one sighting was explained with confidence (which ended up being a balloon).
Other scientists think the possibility that UFOs are extraterrestrial craft is essentially nil (a significant difference from what the Department of Defense seems to be saying), and therefore not worth investigating. These scientists are like Nobel laureate Ernest Rutherford, who until 1933 rejected the idea of harnessing the atom to make an atomic bomb, calling it “moonlight.”
To truly unravel this mystery, we need the collective power of private and public academic and independent organizations all working on the problem. Congress needs to open the floodgates to both funding and unclassified data for research by civil groups that can share their own data and build on the ideas of others. Only by doing this can we move beyond the “moonlight” critique and find out what really happened in our skies.