Arrested NASA scientist worked on Chandrayaan-1

Arrested NASA scientist worked on Chandrayaan-1

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday filed a criminal complaint against Steward David Nozette, 52, for "attempted espionage". According to Nozette's bio on US space agency NASA's Mini-RF (Miniature Radio Frequency) project page, he was described as the instrument's principal investigator on the American Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Co-investigator on Mini-SAR on Chandrayaan-1.

Nozette's photograph on the bio page is of him posing with the Taj Mahal in the background. The Mini-RF project flew two radar instruments - the first one on ISRO's Chandrayaan called Mini-Sar (synthetic aperture radar), which mapped lunar poles, and the second one on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The American space agency had put another instrument on the Indian lunar probe, Moon Mineralogy Mapper, which effectively proved the presence of water molecules on the moon's surface. Nozette had been interviewed by Indian private channel NDTV in September 2008, before Chandrayaan-1 had successfully blasted off to orbit the moon.

In that interview, he said the offer to fly American instruments on the Indian probe was a "very good deal" for both space agencies. "Really opens up collaboration between NASA and ISRO which hasn't happened on this scale before. So it helps us in a lot of ways," said Nozette.

While he enjoyed working with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) colleagues, Nozette admitted there were challenges in working long distance and of culture. He has now been arrested for allegedly spying for Israeli intelligence.

A criminal complaint unsealed in the District of Columbia charged Nozette with attempted espionage for knowingly and wilfully attempting to communicate, deliver and transmit classified information relating to the national defence of the US to an individual he believed to be an Israeli intelligence officer.