NASA also created a new position to lead UAP research, but officials wouldn't say who they appointed.
NASA officials cited harassment concerns, but the agency quietly shared the new UAP chief's name hours later.
NASA created a new position to lead research on UFOs, but officials were initially cagey about who got the job.
Mark McInerney is NASA's new director of research into Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) — mysterious zipping objects in the sky that Navy pilots have seen, unidentified lights, or sometimes just balloons — more commonly referred to as UFOs.
McInerney was previously serving as a liaison between NASA and the Department of Defense, "covering limited UAP activities," according to NASA. Before that, he was a meteorologist for the National Weather Service for over a decade, then moved to NASA to work on Earth-science data.
The announcement came alongside a highly anticipated NASA report on UAP. Published on Thursday, the report asserted that there is no evidence these mystery phenomena have extraterrestrial origins.
This conclusion comes after nearly a year of assessing these mysterious aerial sightings by an independent study team NASA formed to take a science-based approach to UAPs.
The report gives recommendations for further study, such as using AI to sift through haystacks of data for the tiny needle of an unusual occurrence.
As part of its new plan to tackle mysterious phenomena, NASA created McInerney's new position: director of UAP research.
Hours after officials refused to say who got the job — an uncharacteristic bout of secrecy for the agency — NASA quietly updated a press release to add McInerney's identity.
NASA officials said they wouldn't name McInerney for fear of harassment
"We don't know what these UAP are. That's why I'm announcing that NASA has appointed a NASA director of UAP research," Bill Nelson, NASA's administrator, said in a press briefing about the new UAP report on Thursday.
Nicola Fox, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said that someone had been serving as the director for "awhile" now.
NASA officials in the briefing repeatedly emphasized their commitment to transparency in the ongoing study of UAPs. But when reporters asked who the new director is, Fox responded: "We will not give his name out."
Later on, officials explained that online harassment was part of the reason they were keeping the role of director of UAP research anonymous.
"Some of the threats and the harassment have been beyond the pale, quite frankly, towards some of our panelists," said Daniel Evans, assistant deputy associate administrator for research at NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "It's important that science be free as part of that process."
The new report includes a brief job description for the director of UAP research, saying they will "centralize communications and leverage NASA's extensive resources and expertise to actively engage in the whole-of-government UAP initiative. This individual will also ensure that the agency's vast analytical capabilities, including its proficiency in data management, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, are contributed to the government's unified UAP effort."
When Evans was asked if NASA would ever disclose the director's identity, he answered "Potentially, yes," but did not say when the agency might do so.
This story was updated after publication with the news of NASA naming Mark McInerney as the director of UAP research. It was originally published on September 14, 2023.
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