Hyderabad: News agency ANI on August 9, reported that a student by the name Diksha Shinde was selected to participate in NASA’s MSI fellowships virtual panel held over a period of four days last month. However, a controversy of sorts has now emerged over the purported selection of the 14-year-old girl from Aurangabad into NASA with many refuting the story as fake news.
According to ANI, the class 10 student supposedly submitted a research article on black holes last year. Her research was selected by The International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research this year in May, the report mentioned, adding that it was her third attempt at applying. Shinde is also supposed to have written previous papers questioning the “existence of god.”
“I wrote a theory on black holes & God. It was accepted by NASA after three attempts. They asked me to write articles for their website,” Shinde told ANI.
The story has garnered much interest on Twitter, where users are questioning the authenticity of the claims made. Following accusations challenging it, ANI attached screenshots purportedly of the emails Shinde received from NASA on her research approval.
However, in a turn of events it appears that the news report is fake and that Shinde never got accepted to NASA’s virtual panel.
ANI editor-in-chief Smita Prakash, defending the report on Shinde, tweeted, “The story is not fake. We stand by it.”
Shinde claims she is set to begin her work of reviewing proposals and research with NASA soon and will receive a monthly honorarium. NASA will train her once she turns 18, she adds.
While some people on Twitter disproved the validity of the email ID from which Shinde received communication as not being NASA’s official one, others note that as the eligibility criteria for the MSI fellowship states that one should be a citizen of America, and thus it is unlikely that the student got through the program.
The NASA website, the Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Exchange tool offers a curated “search for innovative and diverse academic collaborators” without mention of any direct NASA-backed fellowships under the said service. The MSI Exchange is managed by the space agency’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP).
Several leading Indian news publications which carried the story from ANI have taken down their stories citing “factual inaccuracies” despite ANI’s editor-in-chief standing by the story.