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US spy worked with India's Moon Mission

Photo courtesy: Pallava Bagla

Washington:  A former US government scientist arrested on Monday for espionage has a close connection to India.

Federal Bureau Investigation agents posed as Israeli intelligence officers in an undercover operation and found Nozette was willing to give them classified information.

Stewart Nozette was a top American co-investigator for India's maiden mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1. Nozette worked on a NASA guest instrument flown onboard Chandrayaan to search for water hidden deep within the craters of the moon. The results from this instrument are yet to be revealed. Water found on the moon last month by NASA was thanks to a different instrument, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper.

India is confident that Nozette had no access to any confidential information during his work with Chandrayaan. 'Nozette did visit ISRO facilities at least twice, but he was NOT allowed into the sensitive and restricted areas. ISRO's security has not been compromised. This arrest is an internal matter of NASA,' says A. Bhaskara Narayana, Scientific Secretary to ISRO.

In an exclusive interview to NDTV's Pallava Bagla,  Nozette had explained his India connection as he worked.

NDTV: And how much are you paying ISRO to carry your instrument?
SN: Oh ISRO is, we are guests. We are not paying ISRO anything. It's a collaboration between ISRO and NASA.

NDTV: Oh It's a collaboration between ISRO and NASA where ISRO is giving you a free ride to the moon?
SN: Well, effectively.

NDTV: Effectively. And you are sharing data or something with ISRO?
SN: We're sharing all the data with ISRO.

NDTV: So when water is found and if there is spoils to be shared, ISRO and NASA and LPI would be together in that?
SN: We are all partners.

NDTV: We are all partners in that. And how much did it cost to put this Minisar together?
SN: It was tens of millions of dollars.

NDTV: That's expensive!
SN: But compared to a dedicated satellite, it's pretty good deal for NASA.

NDTV: Oh so you get to fly your instrument without having to pay this hundred million dollars which ISRO is spending for this satellite
SN: More in the United States, I'll say.

NDTV: So it's a good deal?
SN: Very good deal for NASA and ISRO. 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.

NDTV: So did you enjoy working with ISRO?
SN: Yes, very much.

Nozette once had top security clearance, and developed technology for the Pentagon between 2000 and 2006.
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