Reports of an Indian girl winning an internship at NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies have turned out to be a hoax. The Space Institute has clarified that it has no records of any student called Sataparna Mukherjee. Also, it turns out that NASA only offers the internships to US citizen, living within 50 miles of the Goddard Institute. The issue was first brought to notice by Ayoti Patra, a PHD student at University of Maryland, College Park, USA.
We, like many others, had originally reported the claims as well, and we owe our readers an apology for the same. In fact, in an effort to get in touch with the claimant, we had contacted St. Judes School, Madhyamgram, Kambuni, where Sataparna Mukherjee is reportedly studying. Interestingly, the school didn't deny the claims either and gave us a contact number for Mukherjee. We didn't receive a reply from Mukherjee when we tried to contact her. An email was also sent to NASA, in hopes that the claims would be confirmed or rubbished.
The original story that we reported, is as below.
Sataparna Mukherjee, an 18-year-old Class 12 student from a village about 30kms away from Kolkata, has been selected for the Goddard Internship Programme by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The internship program is under NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), and Mukherjee is among five scholars chosen from around the world for the program. Every year, the program selects five individuals and funds their entire education after school.
As per a report by the Times of India, she shared her thoughts on ‘Black Hole Theory’ on a group in a social networking site, whose members included some scientists. One of the members suggested that she post her findings on NASA’s official website. Her paper on the Black Hole Theory and how it could be used to create a ‘Time Machine’ was hugely appreciated. As part of the program, she will get to pursue graduation, post-graduation, and Ph.D (as NASA faculty) in Aerospace Engineering from Oxford University’s London Astrobiology Centre. She will also work as an “employee and researcher”, and will be a part of the agency’s earth science and technology development program. NASA will bear all expenses and will also be paying her a generous amount as an honorarium. Her father, Pradip Mukherjee, a headmaster at a primary school, said, “She has made us, and the entire country, proud,” and added that she will be leaving on August 17.