INTELLIGENT life is "likely" to exist elsewhere in the universe besides Earth, NASA administrator and former astronaut Bill Nelson has said.
The ex-Senator's comments came in response to a UFO report released last month by the Pentagon which couldn't rule out extraterrestrial life in nearly 150 unexplained encounters with unidentified flying objects.
Speaking to CNBC, Nelson said that it's likely that life exists in the wider universe and pointed to its age and expanse as a possible explanation.
"If you have a universe that is 13.5 billion years old — it is so big — is there another chance for another Sun and another planet that has an atmosphere like ours? I would say yes.
"So I think we’re going to get some indication that there’s intelligent life out there."
Nelson added that NASA has been searching for intelligent life both in and beyond our own solar system for years.
The 78-year-old noted that Mars may be harboring some clues to help with that search.
"We're looking for life on Mars, on the other planets, in the cosmos, trying to determine other suns that have planets with a habitable atmosphere," Nelson said.
NASA's Perseverancing rover and Ingenuity Helicopter are currently stationed on the Red Planet, searching for fossilized evidence of life.
Ingenuity made its ninth flight on Mars on Monday, flying for three minutes and traveling as quickly as five meters per second.
“This particular time, it’s scouting a very sandy region in order to determine should the rover go there and possibly get stuck in the sand, so Ingenuity is just doing amazing things,” Nelson said.
Nelson's interview with CNBC on Tuesday marked the second time in less than two weeks that he's claimed that humans are likely not alone in the universe.
After the release of the Pentagon's report, Nelson claimed to have seen the classified version of the document and said he believes "there is clearly something there."
"We don’t know the answer to what those Navy pilots saw, they know that they saw something, they tracked it, they locked their radar onto it, they followed it, it would suddenly move quickly from one location to another," he said.
"My feeling is that there is clearly something there. It may not be extraterrestrial but if it is a technology that some of our adversaries have, then we better be concerned.”
Skeptics within the UFO debate think sightings can be explained by hypersonic drones sent by countries such as Russia or China, but Nelson appears unconvinced.
He said: “We don’t think so (that it's an adversary) but when it comes to the universe, remember the universe is so large, we have a program in NASA called the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
"But, thus far we don’t have any receipt communication from something that’s intelligent."
June's long-anticipated UFO report investigated 144 sightings of "identified aerial phenomena" (UAPs) reported by US military personnel between 2004 and 2021.
Officials could only explain one incident with high confidence – a large deflating balloon. The other 143 remain unsolved.
Investigators were, however, convinced that the majority of the "unidentified aerial phenomenon" were physical objects, an official said.
"We absolutely do believe what we're seeing are not simply sensor artifacts. These are things that physically exist," they continued, adding that 80 percent of the incidents included data from more than one sensor.
Eleven of the cases involved a "near miss" with US personnel, investigators said.
The report couldn't rule out that UAP sightings resulted from alien visitors – despite concluding no evidence was found.
Former MOD official Nick Pope previously told the Sun: “Whether it's Russia sending drones dangerously close to aircraft carriers or whether it really is something from further away, it is a defense and national security issue and you can’t just dismiss it.”
The report marks a turning point for the US government after the military spent decades deflecting, debunking, and discrediting observations of unidentified flying objects and “flying saucers” backing back to the 1940s.
The main report was unclassified and made public, but there is also a classified annex that will remain secret.
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