[Update March 3, 2016: We would like to apologise to our readers, as this article contains false and non-factual information. Although reliable sources such as the Times of India, Hindustan Times, Zee News, DNA India and others supported the facts claimed in our article below, we along with these newspapers seem to have believed a story riddled with lies and inconsistencies. As a Facebook post by Ayoti Patra points out, the NASA internship is only offered to U.S. citizens, making Sataparna ineligible to begin with. Further, other inconsistencies, such as the name of the alleged university in Oxford she would study at and so on, have no basis in reality. Still, somehow, Sataparna and her father seem to be sticking to their version of the story, and are even purchasing tickets to London, as demonstrated by this Huffington Post article, in which NASA clearly denies any internship holder by the name of Sataparna Mukherjee. While it's still unclear what the truth is, we're unsure whether Sataparna is a victim of a scam or a perpetrator of one . We apologise for the same.]
Every year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) selects five extraordinary individuals around the world for their coveted Goddard Internship Programme under the Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS). Amongst this year’s chosen few is none other than 18-year-old Sataparna Mukherjee, a class 12 student from Kamduni, West Bengal, whose entire education after school will be funded once she appears for her final examinations. Mukherjee has become the youngest Indian to be selected for NASA's prestigious programme.
It began in 2015 when she voiced her opinion on a social media group, which included a few scientists, regarding the black hole theory and how it could be used to create a time machine. "One of the members of this group gave me NASA's official website and told me to post my findings, which I did,” she told Times of India.
Incredibly impressed with the paper, NASA sent an offer letter to her father, Pradip Mukherjee. “First, I thought it was a fake email. We're on cloud nine after an association of scientists and British Council confirmed that the offer was genuine. It's an all-expense-paid programme," he said to Mumbai Mirror.
Under the programme, Mukherjee will work as an employee and researcher in the Earth Science and Technology Development programme. She will be studying at the London Astrobiology Centre, Oxford University for Aerospace Engineering, where she will pursue graduation, post-graduation, and a Ph.D. "I am very happy to get this opportunity where I will also work as a researcher at the NASA centre in London," she said to Times of India. As her father rightly stated, "She has made us, and the entire country, proud."
Words: Sara Hussain