NASA introduces new UFO research director
On Thursday evening, the agency identified the director as Mark McInerney in an updated news release. He previously served as NASA’s liaison with the Defense Department for UAP issues.
NEW YORK: Pledging a new, transparent, scientifically rigorous look at UFOs, NASA on Thursday said it had appointed a director of research on the topic — and then kept the name of the director a secret for about seven hours. The new position is part of NASA’s response to recommendations made by an independent study team that the agency had convened. The panel looked at how to better gather and study information about “unidentified anomalous phenomena,” or UAP — the modern term for UFOs.
The panel’s report, released on Thursday, did not attempt to provide a definitive answer to whether galaxy-trotting extraterrestrials are zipping through Earth’s skies. But it does propose a bigger role for NASA in tackling the question.
“NASA will do this transparently,” Bill Nelson, the NASA administrator, said during a news conference on Thursday morning at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., discussing the report.
During the news conference, Nelson first talked about NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars, which is collecting rock samples that might contain hints of life that lived there several billion years ago. He then turned to the James Webb Space Telescope, which is studying planets around distant stars for clues that they may be habitable or even inhabited by life.
The UAP work, he said, follows a similar yearning for learning about the possibilities of life elsewhere in the universe. “This is the first time that NASA has taken concrete action to seriously look into UAP.” Nelson said.
Nicola Fox, the associate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate, said the person serving as the new director of UAP research had been in that role “for a while now,” but declined to identify him. “We will not give his name out,” she said.
On Thursday evening, the agency identified the director as Mark McInerney in an updated news release. He previously served as NASA’s liaison with the Defense Department for UAP issues. In the news release, NASA said he had also worked in various positions at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Hurricane Center.
In a post on X, the social network formerly known as Twitter, Dr. Fox wrote, “As we continue to digest the study team’s report and findings, please treat him with respect in this pivotal role to help us better scientifically understand UAP.”
NASA officials said that part of the reason for initially keeping McInerney’s identity secret was the harassment experienced during the period of the study by some of the 16 members of the independent panel, who included university professors, space industry officials and a science journalist.
“Some of them actually rose to actual threats,” said Daniel Evans, assistant deputy associate administrator for research in NASA’s science mission directorate. “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.”
The federal government’s knowledge of UAPs has recently been the subject of proposed federal legislation. In a House oversight subcommittee hearing in July, lawmakers quizzed a former intelligence official who claimed knowledge of a government cover-up of extraterrestrial technology.