NASA put the photograph, originally snapped by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko on their website claiming that it was a representation of Mt Everest taken from the Space Station which orbits 370 km’s above the Earth’s surface.
Various supposedly respectable news agencies such as MSNBC, at least one magazine and a handful of astronomy websites ran with the photograph’s which showed a tall peak, lightly dusted with snow.
A journalist and Himalayan expert Kunda Dixit was quick to smell a rat however and – as seems to be the way with so many things these days – took to Twitter to right the wrong.
“Sorry guys, but the tall peak with the shadow in the middle is not Mt Everest.” He tweeted.
Dixit’s tweet, amongst hundreds of others soon forced NASA to do an embarrassing back flip, quickly removing the photograph from their website.
“It is not Everest. It is Saser Muztagh, in the Karakoram Range of the Kashmir region of India,” a spokesman admitted in an email to AFP. And then – as if this was somehow a mitigating factor – added “The view is in mid-afternoon light looking northeastward.” Thanks for that information… I guess.
He did not explain how the International Space Station, a joint project that features some of the best and brightest minds from the United States, Japan, Canada and the European Union had wrongly identified not just the two mountains but also the countries of Nepal and India.
According to former astronaut Ron Garan, who worked on the Space Station himself, the 8,848 metre high Everest is a much sought after photographic target from space but is notoriously tricky to capture.
“No time is allotted in our work day normally for Earth pictures. So if we want to capture a specific point on the ground we have to first know exactly when we will fly over that spot,” he told The Atlantic (ironically one of the magazines which ran with the original photograph in the first place).
While NASA might be a little embarrassed now, one can only hope they’ll get over it soon and go back to landing unmanned robot’s on the surface of Mars, and all that other cool stuff.