Headlines > News > LRO, Chandrayaan-1 Scientist Arrested for Espionage

LRO, Chandrayaan-1 Scientist Arrested for Espionage

Published by Matt on Tue Oct 20, 2009 3:26 pm via: source
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Written by Nancy Atkinson

Times are tough, but you have to wonder what this guy was thinking. Stewart David Nozette, 52, who was involved in the recent discovery of water on the Moon by the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft has been arrested for espionage for allegedly trying to sell details of US missile detection satellites in exchange for cash.

Nozette was attempting to sell classified information to a person who he believed was an Israeli intelligence officer. Nozette is a fairly prominent scientist who helped conceive the 1994 Clementine mission to the Moon, and currently is a co-investigator on Chandrayaan-1, the Indian Moon mission, and on an instrument aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Nozette with a model of Chandrayaan-1. Credit: NDTV

Nozette with a model of Chandrayaan-1. Credit: NDTV

According to a 16th October FBI affidavit, Nozette was contacted last month by an undercover officer posing as an agent working for the Israeli Intelligence Agency. Nozette agreed to accept money in exchange for his past access to top secret documents.

As former government physicist, allegedly Nozette worked for almost every military shop in the US government including the Air Force’s Phillips Laboratory, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Naval Research Laboratory, and the Defense Advanced Research Project’s Administration (DARPA). He also served on president George H. W. Bush’s space council and worked with NASA.

This isn’t the first time Nozette has been in trouble with the government. According to press reports, a small non-profit Nozette ran came under investigation by NASA in 2006 for misusing funds to pay for utilities, three mortgages a tennis club membership.

But this time the charges are more serious.

According to the Nature Blog, Nozette has worked for with Israeli contacts previously. The FBI affidavit says that between 1998 and 2008, an Israeli aerospace company “wholly owned by the Government of the State of Israel” paid Nozette some $225,000. “I thought I was working for you already,” Nozette told the agent in a transcript reproduced in the affidavit. “I mean that’s what I always thought, the [foreign company] was just a front.”

In September and October, Nozette allegedly provided details of a “prototype overhead collection system” to the FBI agent in exchange for cash payments of $2,000 and $9,000 dollars. He will appear later today in United States District court for the District of Columbia to face a single charge of attempted espionage.

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