NASA appointed a research director to oversee the effort to investigate sightings of unidentified craft, as it takes steps to develop a scientific, evidence-based approach to understanding unexplained events.
On Thursday, the agency initially said it wouldn’t name the official, but offered that the person has worked in the position for a while, according to Nicola Fox, NASA’s associate administrator. However, by the end of the day Thursday, NASA backtracked and named the director as Mark McInerney.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced the appointment Thursday at a press briefing, soon after the agency released a report on findings from an independent study team about how NASA can better identify UAPs, or unidentified anomalous phenomena. The panel recommends creating a systematic reporting framework incorporating greater use of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
“This is the first time NASA has taken concrete action to look into UAPs,” Nelson said.
McInerney will be responsible for developing and overseeing implementation of studies into unidentifiable observations of events in the sky, commonly referred to as UFOs.
One reason NASA had originally wanted to keep the person’s identity secret was over concerns of threats and harassment, which some panel members experienced in relation to UAP studies, said Dan Evans, NASA’s assistant deputy associate administrator for research. The panel nevertheless said NASA would remain transparent about what it finds in the skies.
In an update released Thursday afternoon naming McInerney, NASA clarified that he used to work as a NASA liaison to the Department of Defense — a role the allowed him to cover UAPs in a limited capacity.
Nelson said he wanted to dispel the stigma around UAP research and “shift the conversation from sensationalism to science.”