Friday January 18, 2019
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NASA denies of awarding any internship to Indian teen

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Kolkata: US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) denied the claim of an Indian girl named Sataparna Mukherjee. She had claimed that she is selected for the prestigious Goddard Internship Program (GIP) under the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). The girl is still sticking to her stand.

Eighteen-year-old suburban West Bengal resident Sataparna Mukherjee has attested to being the “youngest Indian to have been chosen for a NASA research project”.

The resident of Madhyamgram in North 24 Parganas district claimed in an interview to the agency that the space agency had offered her a full scholarship to pursue graduation, post-graduation, and PhD (as NASA faculty) in aerospace engineering at its “London Astrobiology Centre in Oxford University.”

In an e-mail to the agency, a NASA official clarified: “We have no record of anyone by that name receiving an internship, scholarship or any form of academic or financial assistance from any NASA institute, center or program.”

Further the official highlighted: “The program noted by multiple Indian media outlets does not exist.”

The agency said its NASA GISS education program is the New York City Research Initiative (NYCRI), “where teams of high school and undergraduate students and faculty work alongside graduate students and the lead scientists of NASA-funded research projects at universities within a 50-mile radius of New York City…, or at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) under the mentorship of a GISS scientist.”

NASA said the NYCRI application deadline has just passed and applications for its summer program were currently under review. “Selections have not been made.”

However, an unfazed Mukherjee, who claims she is scheduled to leave for Britain in August, maintains she has the necessary documents to prove her assertions.

Mukherjee had earlier sent a screenshot to the agency of a purported correspondence from the space agency stating “Goddard Internship program as an employee and researcher. Technical writing for NASA’s Applied Earth Science and Technology Development Program.”

Quizzed on NASA’s reaction, Mukherjee said that the agency was issuing denials to maintain confidentiality.

“I have the necessary documents and I can’t send them via mail as I was asked by NASA to maintain confidentiality. I also have my visa. You can come and see them.”

On the widespread media coverage and the interviews she willingly appeared for, the student said she was “forced by media channels” to tell her story.

“Since I am the only Indian selected, I was asked to maintain confidentiality. They (NASA) are denying it now because it’s in the news now.”

Mukherjee has maintained she had posted a paper on NASA’s website on black hole theory which landed her the scholarship. She had also talked about getting through an exam (as one of top three scorers) for doing major in English at the Oxford University. However, even after repeated requests, she failed to provide documentary evidence.

Media reports have quoted Sataparna as saying she verified the authenticity of the NASA website at the Chennai office of the British Council.

However, the British Council termed the claims as “false”.

“British Council would like to refute and condemn false claims as they are baseless and without any premise. As per our records, nobody with this stated identity visited or contacted our office in Chennai,” a British Council official said over e-mail.(IANS)

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Firefly Aerospace Inc Plans to Build a Factory at Cape Canaveral

NASA named Firefly as one of nine U.S. companies competing for funding under a program to develop technology to explore the moon’s surface.

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A Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy rocket stands ready for launch on pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Feb. 5, 2018 VOA

Firefly Aerospace Inc, a resurgent rocket company founded by a former SpaceX engineer, plans to build a factory and launch site at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Spaceport in a $52 million deal, people familiar with the project said on Wednesday.

The Firefly project is strategically important for the Cedar Park, Texas-based startup as it competes with several other new entrants vying to cash in on a big jump in the number of small satellites expected in the coming years.

Companies like Firefly, billionaire British entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, and the U.S.-New Zealand company Rocket Lab, are among the most promising companies designing miniaturized launch systems to link a broader swath of the economy to space at lower cost.

Firefly and Space Florida, the state’s spaceport authority, declined to comment, citing confidentiality agreements.

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The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying the crew of astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. VOA

Beginning around 2020, around 800 small satellites are expected to launch annually, more than double the annual average over the past decade, according to Teal Group analyst Marco Caceres.

The boom is fueled in part by new venture cash and technology leaps that have reduced the size of satellites used for everything from communications to national security.

A Florida project code-named “Maricopa” was publicly disclosed in November by Space Florida, but officials have been tight-lipped on specifics. Two people familiar with the project said Firefly is the company involved, though one of the people said the deal had not been finalized.

Firefly aims for a first flight in December of its Alpha rocket, which is capable of carrying around 2,200 pounds (1,000 kg) into low-Earth orbit at a cost of about $15 million per flight.

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Firefly has a launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and has generally talked about expanding operations for Alpha.

By comparison, it can cost around $62 million for a ride on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 with a payload topping 50,000 pounds (22,700 kg).

Firefly, founded around 2014 by former SpaceX and NASA engineer Tom Markusic, says its main competitors are government-subsidized foreign ones like the Indian Space Research Organization.

Asset management firm Noosphere Ventures bought Firefly’s assets in 2017 after it nearly shut down when a key European investor backed out. That resulted in the cancellation of a $5.5 million NASA contract for small satellite launches.

Also Read: NASA Planning to Use Blockchain Technology For Air Traffic Management

Firefly has a launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and has generally talked about expanding operations for Alpha and a higher-capacity Beta rocket around 2021. It was not clear when the Florida expansion would be completed.

In November, NASA named Firefly as one of nine U.S. companies competing for funding under a program to develop technology to explore the moon’s surface. (VOA)