Washington: A US scientist who was part of the Chandrayaan lunar mission that found water on the moon was caught trying to sell classified secrets to an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation posing as an Israeli intelligence agent, the US justice department said.
Stewart David Nozette, a co-investigator of the moon mineralogy mapper or M3 instrument on board the Indian mission, was arrested on Monday and charged with trying to transmit classified information.
Security breach: Nozette was a co-investigator of the M3 instrument in Chandrayaan. Hemant Mishra / Mint
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) M3 instrument found traces of water on the moon’s surface. The findings were announced in September.
Nozette, 52, had visited the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) in Bangalore before the Chandrayaan launch.
“Isro had followed strict security protocols and like any other foreign national, he was not allowed access to critical installations,” said S. Satish, Isro’s spokesman.
Nozette has worked for Nasa and the US energy department. In 1989 and 1990, he worked for the White House’s National Space Council. At the energy department, he held a special security clearance equivalent to the US defence department’s top secret and “critical nuclear weapon design information” clearances.
(Mint’s K. Raghu in Bangalore contributed to this story.)