The much-anticipated UFO report released last Friday did not confirm or deny the existence of extraterrestrial intelligent beings, but NASA Administrator Bill Nelson says he thinks they’re out there somewhere.
And the biggest, most powerful telescope ever built could be the key to finding them.
Nelson – a former US senator and astronaut – was sworn in in May, just as buzz was building about the report.
Belief in unidentified flying objects has long been ridiculed, but the report to US Congress on 144 sightings from credible witnesses sparked global conversations about the potential existence of ET, and the possible technology developed by Earthly nations.
In an interview, Nelson told CNN that he was getting NASA scientists to look at videos taken by Navy pilots that appeared to show craft moving in unnatural ways.
He has also seen a longer, classified version of the report.
“What the report does tell us…is that there’ve been over 140 of these sightings, so naturally what I asked our scientists to do is to see if there’s any kind of explanation from a scientific point of view…and I’m awaiting their report,” he says, adding that he had also spoken to the pilots in his previous political role.
“My feeling is that there is clearly something there. It may not necessarily be an extraterrestrial, but if it is a technology that some of our adversaries have, then we’d better be concerned.”
Asked if he believed there was something out there, Nelson replied: “Are we alone? Personally, I don’t think we are. The universe is so big.
“We are already finding examples of other planets around other suns. When we launch the James Webb Telescope in November, it will peer back in time almost to the beginning…and then we’ll find some additional information.”
The Webb, which NASA says will be the “premier space-based observatory of the next decade”, will play a critical astrobiological research role.
It will effectively look back in time to study the history of the universe, including distant solar systems that are potentially capable of supporting life.
“The Webb telescope will also be capable of making detailed observations of the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars, to search for the building blocks of life on Earth-like planets beyond our solar system,” says NASA.
The infrared telescope will orbit the sun and observe the universe with a 6.4-metre mirror. Its improved sensitivity in comparison to the existing Hubble telescope means it will be able to look closer to the beginning of time.
NASA’s recent list of technology it is using in the search for extraterrestrial life looks at past missions, from the Viking spacecraft to earlier Mars rovers, and current missions such as the Hubble and newer Mars craft.
Future missions, along with the Webb telescope, include the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s moon, the Dragonfly mission to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, and the Nancy Grace Roman Telescope, which will feature the first in-space demonstration of ‘starglasses’ – a coronagraph instrument that will block out the glare of stars, making images clearer.
Tory Shepherd is an Adelaide-based freelance journalist who has covered Space 2.0 for The Advertiser.
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