One day in High School a new teacher is hired in a quick hurry to replace someone who quit. The man shows up to teach biology wearing a NASA jacket and spends the entire first hour of class explaining all of the work he has done for the agency. He also insists we call him, "Dr. J, because I have enough class credits to have a PhD".
The story could be 100 paragraphs of weird twists and turns, but the short of it is that the guy was a total fraud and had only once volunteered for a citizen science project. One of the things about rural schools is that they're often desperate for teachers, so he got to hang around "teaching" biology until he threatened to shoot some kids and he was finally fired.
Oh, if only it were that easy....
Hick kids are brutal if they smell you're a fraud. Let's just say the kids were not kind to Dr. J. They loved to push his mental limits, that were pretty flimsy from the start.
The book about him, The Kid Stays in the Picture, is one hell of a ride.
What do you count as making it?
I personally consider “making it” being happy with what you’re doing, even if most other people wouldn't consider it "making it."
But if you're someone who goes through the effort to lie about working for NASA and all that, I'm guessing this wasn't their idea of making it.
You definitely don’t need to fake anything about nasa to get a job there either.
As far as I can tell, nothing they're doing is illegal. Anyone can say they're training to go to Mars. Anyone can buy NASA t-shirts and any child can attend Space Camp. NASA doesn't regulate the use of its name in twitter and Instagram account names. In most cases it appears that the media either doesn't look very deeply into verifying these people are who they're presenting themselves to be or are willing participants in deceiving the public themselves. It makes for a nice article or fills airtime to have on a teenager in a flight suit covered in NASA patches talking about inspiring other youth to follow their path to becoming an astronaut.
But at least the young people in the article and the ones posing as "aspiring astronauts" have more common sense than the young lady who lost her internship with NASA because she was slinging profanities at a member of the agency's advisory board while celebrating her appointment.
I guess Peggy Whitson isn't sexy enough be on cover of magasines, so journalists need to find instagrammable faces.
I like how her list of accomplishments starts with "witnessing 3 Space Shuttle launches.": https://nasablueberry.com/about/
"Always follow your dream and don’t let anyone take it from you.” — Alyssa Carson
This is too much ........
It’s unclear if it’s real or fake, but their “qualifications” seem to be number of social media followers, so it doesn’t seem actually real.
I’m not complaining, cool story and photos, but I’m sure it’s all performative so I follow it as one would a cool fiction podcast or something.
In followup, the advisory board member in question, evidently not such a stick-up-the-ass authoritarian as NASA’s decision makers, was dismayed by the revocation not the exuberance.
Yep, I did a quick Google too.
"I learned she had lost her offer for an internship with NASA. This I had nothing to do with nor could I since I do not hire and fire at the agency or have any say on employment whatsoever. As it turned out, it was due to the NASA hashtag her friends used that called the agency's attention to it long after my comments were gone," Hickam wrote in a blog post Tuesday.
Hickam also shared that he is "certain she deserves a position in the aerospace industry and I'm doing all I can to secure her one that will be better than she lost," and has "talked to the folks that had to do with her internship and made absolutely certain that there will be no black mark on her record."
Would it be ok to ask you your thoughts about the space shuttle? Is that weird? I really apologize if so.
He agreed, and said he'd argued similarly.
Musk had an even better idea. Bring the ordinary booster rocket back without wings, rudder, or landing gear by using a bit of extra fuel at the last moment to kiss the landing pad rather than smash it. That empty tin balloon of a booster isn't going to fall that fast or need that much fuel to do it.
I don't like Elon, his methods, or his companies, but I am grateful for the progress his engineers have wrought!
Also have you seen the launches in person? Here we have some that look like glowing floating balls of plasma. When SpaceX was first doing tests everyone was outside thinking it was aliens or a bomb, it was that far outside anything people had ever seen before.
The thing that makes it such and achievement (that it's a select group of exceptional people) is also the thing that puts extra expectations on how you can act or what you can be involved in. It might be better if it were not that way, but the reality is that astronauts are not chosen based on skill and capability alone.
Thomas Stafford drops plenty of F-bombs in the Apollo–Soyuz mission transcripts too, which are faithfully recorded in the NASA archives for posterity.
During lunar orbit, they discovered a rogue poop floating in the cabin :
> Stafford: Who did it? (Laughter)
> Cernan: Where did that come from?
> Stafford: Give me a napkin quick, there's a turd floating through the air.
> Young: I didn't do it. It ain't one of mine.
> Cernan: I don't think it's one of mine.
> Stafford: Mine was a little more sticky than that. Throw that away.
> Young: God almighty.
> Stafford: What do you see?
> Young: Nothing, that's enough for me.
> Cernan: Yes.
> Young: Nice going there.
> Cernan: No more turds are going to fit in there.
> Stafford: Is that waste compartment full?
> Young: No, hell; there's nothing in there.
> Cernan: It goes all the way down to the...
> Cernan: Hell, when I got in there, I had to stick my hand in there and [garble] - He put it in the bag, didn't he? You guys been trying to stick it through there with your fingers?
A few more choice quotes :
> Stafford: [Garble] about that ascent stage. You know that? [Garble] son of a bitch [garble] screwed, you know? But that son of a bitch - John?
> Young: [Garble] burn [garble] God. What the hell is this shit? What? What is that crap those things [garble]? [Garble] putting my [garble].
> Young: Oh, what a life, being a spaceman. Wish I could have been a professor or something.
John Young was also the star of another great moment in NASA history, when he smuggled a corned beef sandwich onboard Gemini III :
> Grissom: What is that?
> Young: Corn beef sandwich
> Grissom: Where did that come from?
> Young: I brought it with me. Let's see how it tastes. Smells, doesn't it?
> Grissom: Yes, it's breaking up. I'm going to stick it in my pocket.
> Young: Is it? It was a thought, anyway.
> Grissom: Yep
> Young: Not a very good one.
> Grissom: Pretty good, though, if it would just hold together.
 https://historycollection.jsc.nasa.gov/JSCHistoryPortal/hist... (page 45)
I bet you there was some PR person at NASA cussing them out when they heard/saw those too.
As for being faithfully archived, well we already have enough moon landing conspiracists without giving them more "evidence" of stuff being hidden during space missions.
She was selected for a student internship, not for training in the astronaut corps
I'm not saying it's justified, but I don't doubt they're overly cautious by nature and if they have a chance to remove a risk prior to any real investment, they're more likely to take that route.
The real mistake here is was made by a potential intern who was not yet hired. It’s like making a mistake on probation, you likely have very little recourse. It’s completely different for regular civilian employees
And having someone with the demeanor of Cardi B on the team would be bad for their PR mission how?
NASA is obviously acutely aware of how precarious their funding often is, so walks a fine line in an attempt to make the only critique against them purely budgetary and not political. Like it or not, showing too much personality allows one side or the other to start positioning you as a piece for or against their agenda (and of course the other side will take the opposite stance), making it a political issue even if it's ridiculous to think of it as so.
Yet they drew plenty of non-budgetary criticism for rescinding her internship, so it doesn't seem like that worked out for them.
Right now, there are no astronauts in training, although they are starting a new group in December from people who applied early this year. Not because they need more, but because they need younger ones.
If you want to go to Mars, you're probably better off going to Space-X.
Russia is sending a film director and actress to the ISS on October 5th.
What do you think the deal is here? Social climber parents who believe their own BS? Kid wants to make it as an influencer and this is just a handy, vacant persona to step into?
Besides the ones who have died (Dubroff, etc.), it turns out none had the training to reasonably attempt the flight.
Besides the high risk to themselves, those flights involve SAR from various nations and often flow and landings at large airports with airliners, which those entities never asked to get involved with.
As an aside, the US Navy ended up searching for Amelia Earhart, so that shows the disruption of these flights.
- NASA never accepted a paper from the girl, and the screenshots shown were authored by IJSER which could have been Googled to show that they will accept anything
- The certificates shown in the original story were obviously fake not just in appearance but the names and positions from the people at NASA do not exist, like "President & CEO" of NASA, which could have been Googled
- NASA never gave any funding to the girl, so even the basic idea of the story that has a paid job with NASA is false, let alone the claim that they were paying for her to come to the US
They only contacted NASA a week after publication, and now they insist that "a large part of her story is verified and authentic" and rests all the blame on the girl saying "she duped us." I can't help but feel that this national story would have never existed if the publication did their jobs, a story that will now follow the girl as long as people remember this.
Which will be forever, as the Internet never quite forgets. Or she’ll change her name.
PS: One of my classmates(an average student) from college had a interest in Astrophysics and would often checkout the books of Arthur Eddington/John Wheeler etc. It was evident that he was fascinated by it but simply wasn't suited/qualified to read much less understand it.
If they were proud about that, wait until they hear about ISRO! Especially their first mission to Mars. 
Proof of education is really hard. Some people can just do the work, Ramanujan or Einstein might be a good example. Some people fake it, and do good work. I don't have a great example for this, but I'd guess 20% of post docs feel like they're in this category. Most people just grind it out.
I think academia is in a tough spot. It appears to beat people into submission around academic honesty. That's not great, but at least sorta effective for enforcing the rules.
I guess the only takeaway I can offer is, if you have the opportunity to play poker with advanced academics, you should take the chance. They're super smart, and super dangerous. But they've also got some big blind spots, and no interest in fixing them.
My grandfather used to be an admissions tutor at Cambridge (in the UK), and he always fondly remembered telling various people "thank you very much for donating to build us a new library, and, by the way, your son didn't get in".
Good on your Grandpa! Lots of historical systems only work because the whole system is trustworthy. I imagine it would take some serious courage in any of Cambridge's 800+ years to rub a petite bourgeoisie's nose in their attempted bribe.
I think in that day and age, you were raised with this kind of Platonic education in how to use your power responsibly. One downside of increasing social mobility and introducing more of a meritocracy is that we haven't introduced a replacement for the humanistic education which instilled those ideals in people.
Edit to add: It does go the other way too. I know of someone whose dad was Rothermere, who owns the Daily Mail and perhaps some other newspapers. He was pulled in by the master of an Oxford college shortly before his son graduated, and told (with a nod and a wink) that he would be wise to continue his funding of various scholarships, since they knew he had another son who was nearing university age.
We haven't quite figured out how to organize 100 million or a billion people. I think the UK made some fantastic improvements. Parliament is a little ridiculous but an improvement over god said The king is anointed by god, so his blood is special and can make decisions by Devine right.
I think the US did a little better, requiring less trust. I think our system is fraying, but maybe we can find a patch. Adams was a notorious smuggler, how much corruption can you tolerate when you put that kind of person in power?
Corruption is a thing that we live with, I don't think it can be cut out of the hearts of man. Maybe we can set things up in such a way that is survivable even if a random official doesn't have the pride and honor of your grandfather.
If it was easy, it wouldn't be a problem. I don't have an answer. If I were you I'd be proud of your family. They sound like the kind of folks that, in their eyes, do their best to do
the right thing.
You're poker comment's right on. I have a bright family. Plenty of doctorates and but most went into industry, not academia. The blind spots are still there.
No. It is far more complicated than that. Plenty of non-Americans work at NASA. Most are paid by other agencies or are in complicated contractor roles, but they are working in the same spaces at NASA. Such people have been a large part of the program since the very early days.
"In April 1959, the “brilliant and professional” Canadians, who made up a third of the Space Task Group, arrived at the Langley Research Center in Virginia to begin their new careers. [...] One of those brilliant engineers was a man from Kamloops, B.C. named Jim Chamberlin."
"he is often cited as an example of Canadian brain drain to the U.S. In the early 1960s, he was one of the key people that proposed and moved that Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR) was the best option for landing a crew on the Moon"
Not sure where they got the "third" figure. That sounds a little over the top. And it neglects that a lot of them were also American Citizens to begin with.
What's interesting is that it wasn't really a brain drain: Canada decided to stop it's domestic airplane program and all these engineers were pretty much out of a job.
Same thing is happening today to the Canadian aerospace sector with the CSeries saga. Trudeau immediately bowed down to Trump when tariffs were imposed, despite later being thrown out in courts. All he did was to basically threaten to not buy Boeing fighter jets and instead get f35 from Lockheed (which he was contractually obligated to anyways). No support for the industry, nothing. And that was for a flagship prestige technological project.
I still don't understand why he reacted so submissively to Trump. Having the CSeries sold to Airbus at a huge discount was foolish: The plane already had a profitable amount of orders. Now Europeans are reaping the benefits.
The US was at 26% a few years ago, and it's gone down since then.
Then again, I'm from a wealthy western country with practically zero poverty and little classism - so what seems to me like a total rat race, and lots of wasted talent, is probably perfectly normal to others. So you end up with people that are probably smart and drive, but still seek out BS like this - just to get ahead of the competition.
If you don't mind me asking, which country is that?
The problem with that case is not only that she lied, but that everybody blindly believed her without checking any of her claims. She was interviewed by the media, was awarded various awards (for her "research") and was invited as a member to scientific comittees! They even made a barbie dοll modeled on her! Even more outrageous was that the greek gonvermnent and government-controlled media used her as an example of achievement to pass some kind of funny "being the best (αριστεία in greek)" agenda.
Even small time/low tier colleges in India are creating fake "NASA Challenges" to boost student intake and their bottom lines.
There are no jobs in AY, either. Even at Caltech, the AY students knew that there were no jobs in it upon graduation. Hence, they were double majors, AY for fun and another for a job.
If you still really want a job in AY, a more realistic approach would be to first become a cryptocurrency billionaire, then use the money to fund your own orbiting space telescope.
What is sad is that people could be doing the work that their lying implies but they don't. And that seems tied to the expectations set for them which value "scores" over "ability."
My daughter in grade school conspired with a friend to cheat on a test. I found out about it and was really angry with her. We sat down and I tried to patiently explain that I didn't care if she got B's and C's and D's if she had actually worked to learn the material. And if the material wasn't understandable to come to me and we would brainstorm and implement ideas that would try to break through that impenetrability. That experience helped shut down misconceptions that my "pride" in my kids was because they scored highly on tests, and replaced it with an understanding that what I was proud of was how much they had learned and how much effort they put into that understanding.
That leads to the second thing which saddens me about this article is that the "problem" of praising scores over abilities and effort is with the parents and not the children. An outreach program to parents is unlikely to succeed if they are of the mindset "Well the other parents are going to cheat and their children will get the top spots while my child tries to get their honestly? No way, I'm not a sucker."
I've never hidden the fact, but also never made a big deal of it (until now, because I am no longer looking for work). I don't mind saying it, because it may help folks that are struggling, to power through the bad times, and help folks who want to hate me, to have something to latch onto (you're welcome).
If you don't have educational cred, people treat you like garbage. I can understand why folks would do the "stolen valor" thing. I also think it's idiotic. You'll get called on your BS, sooner or later. Even if you never do, you’ll spend your whole life, looking over your shoulder.
I’ve never claimed qualifications that I can’t back up, but I also have a great deal of very real material, available to peruse. The fact that almost no one ever actually looks at it, tells me that it’s fairly easy to slide by, on BS. I’m an awful liar, so it’s important that I have something to show. It’s funny, when people actually start looking at my work, I get very surprised reactions. They just assumed I was idly boasting. That sort of makes me sad. I feel like Integrity and personal Honor are anachronistic.
In my case, I'm smarter than the average bear. I've also got a real knee-jerk reaction to being bullied and challenged. It helped me to power through the shitstorms. The best way to get me to do good work, is tell me that I'm not worthy. I'll master the job, just to shove it down your gob. I feel that all the adversity helped me to be a top-shelf engineer. I could never convince anyone before the fact. I had to present people with fait accompli; which also means that I’ve had a lot of my work shitcanned. That which does not kill you, leaves you weak and exhausted, or something…
I'm not 100% sure what the answer is. Maybe if education could partner more with vocation. I'm not bitter for not getting a chance at an Ivy-League school, like my older siblings (I actually did quite well, despite); but I know that my path would have been a lot smoother, with the sheepskin. I credit the redneck tech school that I attended for teaching me some serious work ethic, and that was probably the best education I had.
Almost everything I have learned in my career has been since leaving school (and it's still going on, now).
I have similarly worked with both software and hardware engineers who developed their skills entirely self taught and I have always felt that a trade union approach could be a good way to both hone one's craft and eliminate the shenanigans that goes on with degree comparisons.
The current state of affairs, especially with regard to software and qualifications, does not feel tenable long term. I would hire a high school drop out who was a software journeyman over someone who lied and cheated their way through a four year degree program any day of the week. But we don't have such programs yet.