Mark McInerney will become the US space agency’s director of research into unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAPs), more commonly known as unidentified flying objects.
NASA officials initially refused to reveal McInerney’s identity amid fears he would be harassed, before later backtracking on the decision.
Speaking about the new UFO boss following the release of the agency’s highly-anticipated study into more than 800 UAP sightings, NASA’s associate administrator Nicola Fox told reporters: ‘They have been working there a while now, during the study, to help be a point of contact.’
But when directly asked whether she could name the official, Fox replied: ‘We will not give his name out.’
All changed hours later, however, when NASA sent out a press release that included McInerney’s name and revealed he previously worked as the agency’s liaison to the Pentagon.
There has been no explanation as to why McInerney’s identity was revealed when NASA initially declined to do so.
However, it emerged at last night’s briefing that several members of the independent study group had received threats, hate mail and been ridiculed on social media.
Some were even apparently told to stay away from researching UFOs because it could damage their scientific credibility.
‘That’s in part why we are not splashing the name of our new director out there, because science needs to be free,’ Dan Evans, the NASA official in charge of the study, originally said.
‘Some of [the incidents] rose to actual threats.’
The newly-formed UFO research division will continue studying UAPs, even though the space agency yesterday ruled out that aliens were to blame for some 800 such sightings over almost three decades
These are defined as objects ‘that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena from a scientific perspective’.
In a landmark report commissioned by NASA last year and published on Thursday, an independent panel of 16 experts stressed that there was ‘no reason to conclude’ that any of the sightings they analysed were extraterrestrial in origin.