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Out of this world: NASA appoints the first UAP research director

On September 14, 2023, NASA declared it had appointed a director of research to study “Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena” (UAP) during a news conference at NASA’s Headquarters in Washington D.C. The agency originally intended to keep the name of the director of UAP secret, but decided to reveal the name seven hours later. Mark McInerney, as it was revealed in the evening on the same day, would become the first UAP director. His position was created upon the recommendation of NASA’s UAP Independent Study team. Mark McInerney, a meteorologist, climate, data scientist, NASA employee, and now director of the UAP department would take on the responsibility of leading his team to study more about UAP by collecting more data as well as work with NASA to create space-based Earth observation satellites to aid the government. According to a statement by NASA, McInerney and his team will “establish a robust database for the evaluation of future UAP.”
NASA’s UAP Independent Study team was formed in 2022. Sixteen individuals were selected to study unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP), more commonly known as unidentified flying objects (UFOs). The purpose of this team is for NASA to “ensure the safety of aircrafts,” and strengthens NASA’s goal of national security as well as air safety. The sixteen individuals, David Spergel, Anamaria Berea, Federica Bianco, Paula Bontempi, Reggie Brothers, Jen Buss, Nadia Drake, Mike Gold, David Grinspoon, Scott Kelly, Matt Mountain, Warren Randolph, Walter Scott, Joshua Semeter, Karlin Toner, and Shelley Wright would embark on a project to analyze data collected by civilians, the government, and other sources. Daniel Evans, who is an assistant deputy associate administrator for research, stated that “One of the main goals of what we’re trying to do here today is to move conjecture and conspiracy towards science and sanity.” Any object that cannot be identified by the team as known aircrafts or natural phenomena will be classified as UAP or UFOs. Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington stated, “Exploring the unknown in space and the atmosphere is at the heart of who we are at NASA.”
The election of the director of the UAP Independent Study team was done under a cloud of secrecy. NASA explained that at first the agency intended to keep the name of the director secret because some of the sixteen members of the Independent Study team had experienced harassment after working for the team. Daniel Evans stated that “Some of them actually rose to actual threats…And yes, that’s in part why we are not splashing the name of our new director out there, because science needs to be free.”
In addition to NASA’s new UAP department, the United States’ Department of Defense had also created the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO). Established in July 2022, AARO created a team to identify UAP to decrease “potential threats to safety and security posed by UAP.” Despite similar focus between both organizations on knowing more about UAP, AARO aims to increase national security through data collecting and intelligence about UAP while NASA aims to “shed light on UAP.” It is undeniable that UAP has become more than a controversial theory or a fun Halloween costume.


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About the Contributor
Anda Wattanakit, News Writer
Anda Wattanakit is a freshman. She loves to read, especially 19th-20th century novels. When she isn't on her couch reading, she is playing with her dog, Mochi, who has a special talent of sleeping all day.

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