The group, formed in June 2022, aims to examine data related to unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP), a new term that encompasses objects or incidents in the sky, underwater or in space that can't be immediately identified.
The group, which has $100,000 in funding, includes former astronaut Scott Kelly and 15 other investigators from a wide variety of fields including astronomy, oceanography and even journalism.
During a post-meeting teleconference, astrophysicist David Spergel, chair of the study group and former member of the NASA Advisory Council, compared the study of UAP to fast radio bursts (FRBs), powerful bursts of radio waves from distant galaxies that were originally thought to be anomalies.
During the opening remarks in Wednesday's hearing, team members stressed that the biggest roadblock in terms of understanding these unidentified phenomena is a lack of data.
Nevertheless, NASA's Daniel Evans, assistant deputy associate administrator for research within the agency's Science Mission Directorate, noted that, because public interest in UAP is at a seeming all-time high, it is NASA's responsibility to give the topic the "rigorous scientific scrutiny" it deserves.
Evans stressed that the study is first and foremost about gaining a larger understanding of what is in the air and making the skies safer.
Nicki Fox, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said that the UAP independent study team was commissioned,
Fox noted, however, that accessing high-quality data is difficult because the sensor platforms used to capture data are often classified.
She stressed the need for high-quality unclassified data, which,
Spergel echoed that sentiment, adding that the,
Sean Kirkpatrick, director of the Pentagon's All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), agreed, saying that, while most UAP reports the office reviewed are easily explained, some do still remain unresolved,
One of the more disheartening moments in the opening statements came as both Fox and Evans pointed out that many members of NASA's UAP study group have been subject to harassment as a result of their involvement.
During the post-meeting teleconference, Spergel added that it's vital to remain grounded in the scientific study of UAP based on the available data and without leaping to unfounded conclusions.