Astrobiology: June 2021 Archives

Keith's note: Bill Nelson was on CNN just before 8:00 pm EDT Sunday night to talk about the UAP/UFO report released by the Pentagon Friday evening. Nelson said "I have seen the unclassified and classified version of the report. It says what we thought. We do not know what the answer is to what those navy pilots saw. I have asked our scientists if there is any kind of explanation. I am awaiting their report. My feeling is that there is clearly something there. It may not be extraterrestrial. But if it is our adversaries' technology then we should be concerned." Nelson then said "we have a program at NASA called the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence" and concluded by saying "When we launch James Webb Space Telescope it will peer back in time and we will learn more."

Newsflash: NASA does not fund SETI - nor does NASA have a program by the name "Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence". Someone needs to brief Nelson a little more efficiently the next time he discusses this topic on TV. Just sayin'.

- That UAP/UFO Report Is Out. No Aliens. Yawn., earlier post
- NASA Has No Idea What To Do About The UAP/UFO Report, earlier post

Keith's update: Bill Nelson makes gaffs. And he will make more. Other than irksome Keith, no one else probably cares about this one. It was aired on a Sunday night, so no one saw it - and everyone is now focused on Bill Barr's comments about the 2020 election in a new book. But Nelson has said that his 'scientists' are working on this so some people are going to start asking when that report is due, what the scientists found, can we see the report, etc.

So ... is that upcoming NASA UAP report going to be another nothing burger like DoD's, or, if I had a say, a report that tackles the big questions directly regarding life in the universe using existing NASA efforts, and uses some judo to justify a more robust Astrobiology program - with some SETI and Technosignatures research. But that the focus, as Seth Shostak says, should be mostly outward where more life is to be found - more than downward. The current NASA Astrobiology program arose in a similar fashion in 1996/1997 on the heels of the ALH84001 "Mars Meteorite" putative Mars fossils announcement. I was there in all of the organizing meetings. People in attendance saw a chance to seize the moment and utilize the energy that surrounded the ongoing discussion - and they did so successfully. Alas, NASA's current Astrobiology program and its larger advisory structure is not up to a focused, strategic effort such as the one that built NASA's Astrobiology program in the first place. So ... never mind.

Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, DNI

"The UAP documented in this limited dataset demonstrate an array of aerial behaviors, reinforcing the possibility there are multiple types of UAP requiring different explanations. Our analysis of the data supports the construct that if and when individual UAP incidents are resolved they will fall into one of five potential explanatory categories: airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, USG or industry developmental programs, foreign adversary systems, and a catchall "other" bin. With the exception of the one instance where we determined with high confidence that the reported UAP was airborne clutter, specifically a deflating balloon, we currently lack sufficient information in our dataset to attribute incidents to specific explanations."

Keith's note: They waited until late on a Friday afternoon to dump this report. Nothing to see here. Move along.

The UAP Story: The SETI Institute Weighs In

"The observations to be discussed in the report - photographic, witness testimony, and radar - are sometimes conflated with a research discipline known as SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). The latter involves looking for non-natural radio or light signals coming from deep space, as well as observations that might uncover non-natural phenomena (so-called "technosignatures") in the course of conventional astronomical research. Since the UAP analysis and SETI research have a region of overlap - the possibility of alien beings - there is frequent confusion by the public and media regarding the degree to which they are similar. We hope to mitigate this lack of understanding by pointing out differences in the assumptions, data, and verification methodologies for both UAPs and SETI."

Keith's note: I have asked NASA multiple times over the years what their plan is in the eventuality that life - past or present - is discovered off of our planet. Based on previous NASA announcements such as the ALH84001 Mars meteorite, water on Mars in 2000, etc. NASA has never had a plan and as best I can determine it still has no plan. They just keep their heads down and wing it if the spotlight falls on them. Like I said, I have asked for their plan. No one ever provides it.

Just to be clear: I do not think that these UAP/UFO things are from another world. I never have, But I do think that humans are deeply interested in the possibility of life elsewhere - and that they want NASA and other organizations to search for it. This upcoming UFO/UAP report and its findings (or lack thereof) would clearly be the responsibility of NASA's astrobiology program - you know, the people looking for evidence of life elsewhere in the universe. One would think that this would be a teachable moment - about how science works, what the public is interested in, etc. Guess again.

Alas, if you go to the official NASA Astrobiology website at http://astrobiology.nasa.gov the top five stories on that website include two about cartoons/coloring books, one about a memo written 1.5 years ago, one about a story about hot springs from January 2021, and one about an abstract due date notice from February that lists a April 2021 due date. So, nothing to see there. The obvious place to go next is the main SMD website at https://science.nasa.gov. This site makes no mention of this impending report. Nor does it even mention "astrobiology", so there seems to be little interest in any of this whole "life in the universe" stuff.

Contacting aliens could end all life on earth. Let's stop trying, Op Ed by Mark Buchanan, Washington Post

"More alarming is the possibility that alien civilizations are remaining out of contact because they know something: that sending out signals is catastrophically risky. Our history on Earth has given us many examples of what can happen when civilizations with unequal technology meet -- generally, the technologically more advanced has destroyed or enslaved the other. A cosmic version of this reality might have convinced many alien civilizations to remain silent. Exposing yourself is an invitation to be preyed upon and devoured."

Keith's note: Oh no. Face-eating aliens want to "devour" us. We have all seen that movie before. See what this whole UFO report release meme is stirring up? Really, Washington Post? The op ed author Mark Buchanan seems to think that just listening for indications of other civilizations will somehow alert them that they are being listened to such they will come and eat us. How? Did they file a subpoena for our radio telescope observation records? Besides, we have been sending all manner of radio transmissions out for a centry. Its too late to call the signals back.

Even if these signals from Earth are not detectable or reecognizable by another civiilzation, there are aspects of what we have done to our planet's surface and atmosphere that they can detect. These indications are called "technosignatures" and are a subset of the overall biosignatures that instruments like the Webb Space Telescope will be searching for on worlds circling distant stars. We don't have to send ET any text messages. They can find us much more easily across greater distances by looking at our dirty air.

NASA is getting serious about UFOs, CNN

"We don't know if it's extraterrestrial. We don't know if it's an enemy. We don't know if it's an optical phenomenon," Nelson said. "We don't think [it's an optical phenomenon] because of the characteristics that those Navy jet pilots described ... And so the bottom line is, we want to know." NASA press secretary Jackie McGuinness said Nelson did not establish a formal task force to begin investigating UFOs. However, he did direct researchers to move forward with exploring any lines of questioning around the topic as they see fit."

Opinion: We're asking the wrong questions about UFOs, Washington Post

"In recent decades, science has focused on aspects of extraterrestrial inquiry, including the search for signs of life on other planets -- think the Mars rover-- and techno-signatures -- radio signals that appear to emanate from outside Earth. The research has been complex, evidence-based and demanding, pulling in scientists from across disciplines and all around the globe. The same should be true for the exploration of UAP sightings. If we want to understand what UAP are, then we need to engage the mainstream scientific community in a concerted effort to study them. ... Ravi Kopparapu is a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Jacob Haqq-Misra is a research scientist at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science."

Keith's note: There is a big government report coming out and it mentions UFOs, aliens, and the who knows what else. Its formal release is still more than 2 weeks away and yet we're already arguing about what it says and doesn't say - and what should be done about what its says or doesn't say. In essence we have little concrete evidence - about a report that apparently says that we have little concrete evidence - as to what these UFO/UAP things are or are not. We are accelerating our level of ignorance with arm waving and everyone is jumping on board.

This Department of Defense UFO/UAP report is going to force NASA and other agencies to respond. It cannot be stopped. it is coming out. Indeed it is already dribbling out. There is no way to get around that. If NASA is smart, they will take this opportunity to fix some things and use this opportunity to its advantage. Or they will find their commentary bouncing around the news and internet sphere with hesitant statements competing with overt conspiracy mongering and silly memes. But NASA can seize control of this conversation - if it wants to. It should.

NASA leadership says that the agency is going to look into this thing. Fine. NASA has a world class group of really smart people who can reprogram ancient robots in interstellar space while flying helicopters on Mars. To me, the question is whether NASA's Aeronautics Directorate is studying this UFO thing - which would make some sense given that the manner of motion whereby these objets seem to move is quite inexplicable. Or should NASA's Science Mission Directorate look into this (which makes less sense) as part of its search for life in the universe i.e. NASA's Astrobiology program. Probably both.


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This page is an archive of entries in the Astrobiology category from June 2021.

Astrobiology: May 2021 is the previous archive.

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