NASA Going to Venus MIssions

NASA Announces Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Study Team Members

NASA has selected 16 individuals to participate in its independent study team on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP).
Courtesy: NASA

NASA has selected 16 individuals to participate in its independent study team on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP).

According to NASA, observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or as known natural phenomena are categorized as UAPs.  

The independent study began on Monday, Oct. 24.

Over the course of nine months, the independent study team will lay the groundwork for future study on the nature of UAPs for NASA and other organizations.

To do this, the team will identify how data gathered by civilian government entities, commercial data, and data from other sources can potentially be analyzed to shed light on UAPs. It will then recommend a roadmap for potential UAP data analysis by the agency going forward, according to NASA.

The study will focus solely on unclassified data. A full report containing the team’s findings will be released to the public in mid-2023. 

“Exploring the unknown in space and the atmosphere is at the heart of who we are at NASA,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Understanding the data we have surrounding unidentified aerial phenomena is critical to helping us draw scientific conclusions about what is happening in our skies. Data is the language of scientists and makes the unexplainable, explainable.” 

Unidentified aerial phenomena are of interest for both national security and air safety and the study aligns with one of NASA’s goals to ensure the safety of aircraft.

Without access to an extensive set of data, it is nearly impossible to verify or explain any observation, thus the focus of the study is to inform NASA what possible data could be collected in the future to scientifically discern the nature of UAP, according to a release from NASA.

The NASA official responsible for orchestrating the study is Daniel Evans, the assistant deputy associate administrator for research at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. As previously announced, the independent study team is chaired by David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation.  

“NASA has brought together some of the world’s leading scientists, data and artificial intelligence practitioners, aerospace safety experts, all with a specific charge, which is to tell us how to apply the full focus of science and data to UAP,” said Evans. “The findings will be released to the public in conjunction with NASA’s principles of transparency, openness, and scientific integrity.” 

The members of NASA’s independent study team on unidentified aerial phenomena are: 

  • David Spergel was selected to chair NASA’s independent study on unidentified aerial phenomena. He is the president of the Simons Foundation where he was the founding director of its Flatiron Institute for Computational Astrophysics. His interests range from the search for planets and nearby stars to the shape of the universe. He has measured the age, shape and composition of the universe and played a key role in establishing the standard model of cosmology. A MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, Spergel has been cited in publications more than 100,000 times. 
  • Anamaria Berea is an associate professor of Computational and Data Science at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She is a research affiliate with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and a research investigator with Blue Marble Space Institute of Science in Seattle. Her research is focused on the emergence of communication in complex living systems and on data science applications in astrobiology, for the science of both biosignatures and technosignatures. She uses a wide range of computational methods to uncover fundamental patterns in the data. ​​
  • Federica Bianco is a joint professor at the University of Delaware in the Department of Physics and Astrophysics, the Biden School of Public Policy and Administration and a Senior Scientist at the Multi-city Urban Observatory. She is a cross-disciplinary scientist with a focus on using data-science to study the universe and find solutions to urban-based problems on earth. She is Deputy Project Scientist for the Vera C. Rubin Observatory which in 2023 will start the Legacy Survey of Space and Time to study the night sky in the southern hemisphere and discover new galaxies and stars. She has been published in more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and received that Department of Energy’s “Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science” grant. 
  • Paula Bontempi has been a biological oceanographer for more than 25 years. She is the sixth dean and the second woman to lead the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island (URI). She is also a professor of oceanography at URI. She spent eighteen years at NASA and was appointed acting deputy director of NASA’s Earth Science Division for the Science Mission Directorate. She also led NASA’s research on ocean biology, biogeochemistry, the carbon cycle and ecosystems, as well as many NASA Earth observing satellite missions in marine science. She is a fellow of The Oceanography Society. 
  • Reggie Brothers is the operating partner at AE Industrial Partners in Boca Raton, Florida. He previously served as CEO and board member of BigBear.ai in Columbia, Maryland. Brothers also was the executive vice president and chief technology officer of Peraton, as well as a principal with the Chertoff Group. Prior to his time in the private sector, he served as the undersecretary for Science and Technology at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research at the Department of Defense. Brothers is also a Distinguished Fellow at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology and he is a member of the Visiting Committee for Sponsored Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 
  • Jen Buss is the CEO of the Potomac Institute of Policy Studies in Arlington, Virginia. Before she became CEO, Buss worked extensively with NASA to explore policy issues and strategic planning processes for astronaut medical care and cancer diagnostics and therapeutics. She is nationally recognized as an authority in her field for science and technology trends analysis and policy solutions.
  • Nadia Drake is a freelance science journalist and contributing writer at National Geographic. She also regularly writes for Scientific American, and specializes in covering astronomy, astrophysics, planetary sciences, and jungles. She has won journalism awards for her work in National Geographic including the David N. Schramm Award from the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society and the Jonathan Eberhart award from the AAS Division of Planetary Sciences. Drake holds a doctorate in genetics from Cornell University.
  • Mike Gold is the executive vice president of Civil Space and External Affairs at Redwire in Jacksonville, Florida. Prior to Redwire, Gold held multiple leadership roles at NASA, including associate administrator for Space Policy and Partnerships, acting associate administrator for the Office of International and Interagency Relations and senior advisor to the Administrator for International and Legal Affairs. He led for NASA, jointly with the Department of State, the creation and execution of the Artemis Accords, which established the norms of behavior in space. He also led the negotiation and adoption of binding international agreements for the lunar Gateway, the creation of new planetary protocols and the first purchase by NASA of a lunar resource. Gold was awarded NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal for his work in 2020.Additionally, Gold was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to serve as Chair of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee from 2012 until he joined NASA in 2019.  
  • David Grinspoon is a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tuscon, Arizona, and serves as a frequent advisor to NASA on space exploration. He is on science teams for several interplanetary spacecraft missions including the DAVINCI mission to Venus. He is the former inaugural Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology. His research focuses on comparative planetology especially regarding climate evolution and the implications of habitability on earth-like planets. He was awarded the Carl Sagan Medal by the American Astronomical Society and he is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also an adjunct professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Science at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, as well as Georgetown University in Washington. 
  • Scott Kelly is a former NASA astronaut, test pilot, fighter pilot, and retired U.S. Navy captain. He commanded the International Space Station Expeditions 26, 45, and 46. He was also the pilot of Space Shuttle Discovery for the third Hubble Servicing Mission. He was selected for a year-long mission to the space station where he set the record at the time for the total accumulated number of days spent in space. Prior to NASA, Kelly was the first pilot to fly the F-14 with a new digital flight control system. He flew the F-14 Tomcat in fighter squadron VF-143 aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. He is a two-time New York Times bestselling author and was recognized by Time magazine in 2015 as one of the most influential people in the world.
  • Matt Mountain is the president of The Association of Universities for Research and Astronomy, known as AURA. At AURA, Mountain oversees a consortium of 44 universities nationwide and four international affiliates who help NASA and the National Science Foundation build and operate observatories including NASA’s Hubble Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope. He also serves as a telescope scientist for Webb and is a member of its Science Working Group. He is the former director of The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and the International Gemini Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii.  
  • Warren Randolph is the deputy executive director of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Accident Investigation and Prevention for Aviation Safety department. He has an extensive background in aviation safety at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and is currently responsible for setting and implementing safety management system principles and using data to inform the assessment of future hazards and emerging safety risks. Prior to the FAA, Randolph served as an aerodynamicist for the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Air Force for multiple flight simulations. 
  • Walter Scott is the executive vice president and chief technology officer of Maxar in Westminster, Colorado, a space technology company that specializes in earth intelligence and space infrastructure. In 1992, he founded DigitalGlobe which became part of Maxar in 2017. He has held leadership positions at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California and was the president of Scott Consulting. In 2021, he was inducted into the David W. Thompson Lecture in Space Commerce by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. 
  • Joshua Semeter is a professor of electrical and computer engineering as well as the director of the Center for Space Physics at Boston University. At Boston University, he researches interactions between Earth’s ionosphere and the space environment. Activities in Semeter’s lab include the development of optical and magnetic sensor technologies, radar experiment design and signal processing, and the application of tomographic and other inversion techniques to the analysis of distributed, multi-mode measurements of the space environment. 
  • Karlin Toner is the acting executive director of the FAA’s Office of Aviation Policy and Plans. Previously, she served as the director of the FAA’s global strategy where she led the FAA’s international strategy and managed threats to international civil aviation. Prior to the FAA, Toner served at NASA in multiple leadership positions including director of the Airspace Systems Program at NASA Headquarters. She is a NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal recipient and is an associate fellow for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. 
  • Shelley Wright is an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Studies. She specializes in galaxies, supermassive black holes and building optical and infrared instruments for telescopes using adaptive optics such as integral field spectrographs. She is a Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) researcher and instrumentalist. She is also the principal investigator for the UC San Diego Optical Infrared Laboratory. Previously, she was an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute.   

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