In an effort to improve transparency, the agency announced it would establish a new position of director of UAP (more commonly known as UFOs) research. NASA, however, also said at the time it would not release the name of the individual who would be taking the job.
Just eight hours later, it released the name: Mark McInerney.
He previously served as a liaison on the subject of UAPs between the space agency and the Defense Department. He’s also worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Hurricane Center.
“They did this about-face within hours,” said Ben Hansen, the host of “UFO Witness” on Discovery Plus.
The space agency released its findings from a yearlong study into UFOs. The independent panel cautioned that the negative perception surrounding UFOs hinders data collection. But officials said NASA’s involvement should help reduce the stigma around what it calls UAPs, or unidentified anomalous phenomena.
In the agency’s quest to improve transparency, it said it also needed to consider the safety of those involved.
“They (NASA) also revealed that their panelists not only received harassment but actual threats. So this was kind of a security concern for them,” said Hansen. “I think it speaks to the fact that a lot of this is happening on social media and the vitriol and how it’s divided people in the academic community; a lot of them have this trepidation of even approaching the subject. The stigma is still very real.”
NASA’s 33-page report recommends NASA use existing assets to investigate UAP and collect data to support a rigorous scientific study of the phenomenon and isolate the unexplained for future study.
“We want to shift the conversation about UAPs from sensationalism to science,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. He promised an open and transparent approach.
Officials stressed the panel found no evidence that UAPs had extraterrestrial origin. But Nelson acknowledged with billions of stars in billions of galaxies out there, another Earth could exist.
“If you ask me, do I believe there’s life in a universe that is so vast that it’s hard for me to comprehend how big it is, my personal answer is yes,” Nelson said at a news conference. His own scientists put the likelihood of life on another Earth-like planet at “at least a trillion.”
When pressed by reporters on whether the U.S. or other governments are hiding aliens or otherworldly spaceships, Nelson said: “Show me the evidence.”
Hansen told NewsNation that even the idea of evidence isn’t as straightforward as it may seem.
“They (NASA) claimed that they wanted to be able to allow a public and open discussion, therefore, they can only be looking at unclassified data,” he said. “But let’s be honest: How many people think that if there was truly shocking, compelling information to come forward, that it’s not going to get classified?”
No top-secret files were accessed by the panel’s scientists, aviation and artificial intelligence experts and retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, the first American to spend nearly a year in space. Instead, the group relied on unclassified data to better understand unexplained sightings in the sky.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.