UAP

Two Freedom of Information requests, and the Australian Space Agency

Summary

 Background The French government space agency, the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES- Centre National D’Etudes Spatiales) has operated a UAP study group for many years. Groupe d’Etudes et d’Information sur les Phenomenes Aerospatiaux Non-Identifies – GEIPAN, has a brief […]

 Background

The French government space agency, the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES- Centre National D’Etudes Spatiales) has operated a UAP study group for many years. Groupe d’Etudes et d’Information sur les Phenomenes Aerospatiaux Non-Identifies – GEIPAN, has a brief to investigate unidentified aerospace phenomena. Its database is open to the public.

In June 2022, the U.S. space agency NASA announced the establishment of a study team to examine Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) to commence around September 2022.

Introduction

Australia established its own space agency, the Australian Space Agency (ASA) in 2018. There have been at least two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking to determine whether or not, the ASA has any interest in UAP.

2019

An unknown individual submitted a request dated 30 April 2019. They asked for:

“Any reports, documents, guidelines and/or operational policies and procedures within the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science – The Australian Space Agency – relating to or pertaining to the terms of UFO Unidentified Flying Object, UAS Unusual Aerial Sighting, UAP Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, UAC Unusual Aerial Craft, or UAV Unusual Aerial vehicle.”

The Department’s response, in short, was:

“I am satisfied that reasonable searches have been conducted to locate documents – relevant to your request but they do not exist.”

2021

In September 2021, the Department of Industry, Science and Resources responded to an FOIA request by an unnamed requester, and published the outcome, in their FOIA Disclosure log 21/056/69634. The request was simple “All files pertaining to UFO sightings as well as USO sightings also.”

The Department responded with 86 pages of documents. I haven’t presented the contents of all the resultant emails, merely the ones which I considered most relevant.

A. An email chain whose subject was “Enquiries re UFOs/UAPs.”

B. An email chain titled “Media on UAP report to US Congress,” or “Query re US UAP/UFO report.”

C. Emails concerning a “New FOI request.”

D. Publication – AIAA Daily Launch.

E. Publication – POLITICO SPACE


A. Emails “Enquiries re UFOs/UAPs.”

(1) 17 June 2021. From Operations and Communications ASA To Five ASA [redacted] email addresses.

“All enquiries inbox people

Please note below. Will provide advice on how to co-ordinate responses should requests come in.”

(2) 17 June 2021 From [redacted] To [ ] ASA

“CSIRO has raised with us that we’re likely to get an influx of questions around UFOs next week(ish) when a report on UAPs/UFOs is released to the US Congress. We’d like to have a central point for those queries within the Australian government and [ ] suggested that Fred Watson the Astronomer-at-large could be a good central spokesman.

How do you feel about this – or do you have any additional information  – about central media points? I realise we’ve had the occasional questions before about UFOs, but this one is likely to be more concentrated and not something we can really brush-off.”

A/g Assistant Manager, Communications, ASA.

(3) 17 June 2021 From [ ] To media-ASA cc [ ] @csiro.au

“Hi Team,

You’re probably aware that a much anticipated “UAP/UFO report” will be released to the US Congress and made public. I’ve heard around 25 June. We have people who work on SETI – the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence which is an established area of radio astronomy research – and we are expecting an increase in enquiries. We don’t want to talk about UFOs/UAPs but depending on the outlet and their questions can talk about SETI.

I’m wondering is there an official Australian government contact on UFOs/UAPs to whom we should pass on media enquiries? I’m  thinking it would likely be defence.org We are happy to make other enquiries with Australian government departments but thought you might already have this information to hand.”

Communications Manager, Space, Astronomy and Scientific Computing, Corporate Affairs, CSIRO.

(4) 17 June 2021 From [ ] To [ ]

“Thanks, [ ] we can raise this with [ ] and will let you know what he says!”

(5) 17 June 2021 From [ ] ASA To [ ]

“Thanks [ ]  this is an unusual one!

As far as we know, there is no official government media contact for UFOs, though we thought that Fred Watson, the Astronomer-at-large could be a good contact person. However, as this is being presented to Congress, we want to check that the Minister’s Office wouldn’t prefer for the Agency to answer questions (although it’s not really our remit.) We’ll follow a few leads and get back to you.”

A/g Assistant Manager, Communications, ASA.

(6) 22 June 2021 From [ ] To [ ] cc MediaASA

“Hi Team,

If/when enquiries come through about UFOs/UAPs, please send them through to Fred Watson, either via telephone [ ] or email [ ]. We’ll also need to keep track of them for Departmental media reporting.”

A/g Assistant Manager, Communications, ASA.

(7) 22 June 2021 From [ ] To [ ]ASA

“[ ] Fred is happy to be first contact. He’d like a briefing on CSIRO involvement with SETI – should I contact [ ]”

B. Emails titled “Media on UAP report to US Congress,” or “Query re US UAP/UFO report.”

(1) 21 June 2021 From [ ] To media@defence

“Good afternoon, I’m seeking your help to identify a key government contact for UFO enquiries [seriously!]…”

Manager Government Relations, Corporate Affairs, CSIRO.

(2) 22 June 2021  From [ ] To [ ]

“Please be aware and don’t respond to quiries unless there is a legitimate enquiry.”

Operations and Communications, ASA.

(3) 22 June 2021 From [ ] To AustralianSpaceAgencyLeadershipTeam cc media-ASA

“As you’re probably aware, the US Congress is likely to be presented with a report on UAPs/UFOs soon. We are expecting some level of media enquiries surrounding this. The Minister’s Office has agreed that the best central point of contact for media enquiries is Professor Fred Watson, Astronomer-at-large, with SKA Astronomy.

As always, if you are approached for any media, please send the request through to media@space.gov.au and we will collate and send through to Fred.”

A/g Assistant Manger, Communications, ASA.

(4) 25 June 2021 From [ ]  To [ ] [ ]@industry

“Hi both,

An update on the Defence contact for UAP/UFO enquries is below [ ]  I’ll share our SETI messages shortly.” [ ]

Communications Manager, Space, Astronomy and Scientific Computing, CSIRO.

(5) 25 June 2021 From [ ] To [ ] Attachment CSIRO-brief-SETI-June 2021 -v2 docx.

“Hi all, attached is our brief on the report and our SETI work [ ] you’re welcome to share it with Fred – and do let me know if you’d prefer we went to Fred directly with any media enquiries, or if you’re happy to be the conduit. [ ] in my team is mooo contact and will reach out to me if there’s anything I need to look at urgently [ ]”

Communications Manager, Space, Astronomy and Scientific Computing, Corporate Affairs, CSIRO.

(6) 25 June 2021 From media@defence.gov.au To [ ]

“Good morning, sincere apologies for the delay in responding to your enquiry. The Defence media team is the correct email for any UAP enquiry. We have received several so far.”

C. Emails concerning new FOIA requests

(1) 2 August 2021 From [ ] To [ ]

[ ]

Operations and Communications, ASA.

(2) 15 May 2019

[summary] In 2013 the Australian SKA held an art competition and some of the entries mentioned UFO.

(3) 14 May 2019 From [ ] To [ ]

[summary] Quick review of any documents you have.

(4) 1 May 2019 From FOI To [ ] 

[Summary] Provide any documents you have.

D. Publication- AIAA Daily Launch

Emails dated 25 June and 29 June 2021, sent from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics  to someone [ ]  in the ASA, provided that ASA individual with AIAA news including in relation to UAP, and the 25 June 2021 Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s “Preliminary Assessment” report.

E.  Publication – POLITICO SPACE

Emails dated 19 July, 20 July, and 23 July 2021, brought information from POLITICO SPACE including details of UAP related news, plus a number of messages from a forum held by the 2021 AIAA Aviation four hour presentation on UAP “Advocating for Scientific Studies of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.”

The CSIRO brief


The CSIRO brief mentioned in email B(5) was included in the 86 pages released. Dated June 2021, it was titled “Response to release of US report on UAPs.” While most of the document deals with the topic of SETI, I extract the relevant mention of UAP.

“Background

Media outlets (eg Scientific American) have been speculating that the US government is expected to release an unclassified report into unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs, also known as UFOs) in late June 2021. Media reporting is also expected to be heightened around 2 July, which is known by some as ‘World UFO day.’

We’re expecting to receive media enquiries into whether CSIRO has been researching UAPs and whether our researchers think alien life exists elsewhere in the Universe…

CSIRO doesn’t investigate or research UAPs, although our Space and Astronomy team does work on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence…

CSIRO response ot the release of the report

CSIRO won’t be commenting on the release of the report on UAPs, however our spokespeople can comment on the SETI research we do; they need to be prepared to deflect any questions they receive about the report, UAPs or details of the Science Program with Breakthrough Listen.

Key messages

*At CSIRO we don’t investigate or research unidentified aerial phenomena but we support the search for extraterrestrial intelligence…

Othe spokespeople

* Media enquiries on the US report on UAPs can be directed to the Australian government’s Department of Defence media team…

Comments

1. It was only when placing my own, August 2022, FOIA request to the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, that I became aware of two earlier requests to the ASA.

2. In December 2021, I had emailed both the ASA enquiries email address, and the media ASA email address, with two questions about UAP. After mentioning that the French space agency had a UAP study group, I asked:

“If the Australian Space Agency has any current activity, or projected future plan, regarding the scientific or defence study of UAP, within the context of Australian space studies? If not, what is the agency’s position regarding the possible national security implications of UAP?”

Despite twice more submitting the same email, I never did receive any response.

3. The CSIRO’s brief statement, “CSIRO doesn’t investigate or research UAPs” is pretty definitive. In the past though, CSIRO has maintained files on this topic.  

4. In email A(3) dated 17 June 2021, the CSIRO states “We do not want to talk about UFOs/UAPs.” However, there is no context for this statement. Is it because the CSIRO doesn’t consider the topic worthy of scientific exploration? Or some other reason? It would be nice to know their rationale.

5. In the ASA emails, I do not see anywhere where they state their position on UAP. Obviously, someone within the ASA was keeping up todate with UAP information through subscriptions to both AIAA and POLITICO SPACE material. By submitting my December 2021 email to the ASA, I was attempting to determine their position on UAP. However, when they just don’t answer your email, you can’t work out what they think about the subject. A simple response such as “We have no interest or position on the subject” would have sufficed. What we can say was, at least, they were being informed on the topic by external material.

7. I await the outcome of my August 2022 FOIA request. I will report the result in a separate blog post. 

Addendum

Fred Watson, Australia’s Astronomer-at-large, and Andrew Dunkley, produce a podcast called “Space nuts.” Episode 305, dated 19 May 2022, included a piece on “UAP Senate inquiry underway” and the 16 June 2022, episode 309, featured a piece on NASA’s UAP study team. So, it seems that Fred Watson is keeping up todate on the UAP topic. 

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