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NASA’s monumental mistake

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Mount Everest in this file photo.— Photo: AFP
Mount Everest in this file photo.— Photo: AFP

The world’s highest mountain should not be hard to spot but NASA has admitted it mistook a summit in India for Mount Everest.

The agency said on its website cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko’s snap from the International Space Station, 370 km above Earth, showed Everest lightly dusted with snow.

The picture spread rapidly via Twitter and was picked up by media around the world, including the U.S.-based magazine The Atlantic , astronomy website Space.com and U.S. cable news channel MSNBC.

But Nepalis smelt a rat. Journalist Kunda Dixit, an authority on the Himalayas, tweeted: “Sorry guys, but the tall peak with the shadow in the middle is not Mt. Everest.” NASA confirmed on Thursday it had made a mistake and removed the picture from its website.

“It is not Everest. It is Saser Muztagh, in the Karakoram Range of the Kashmir region of India,” admitted a spokesman in an e-mail to AFP.

“The view is in mid-afternoon light looking north-eastward.”

He did not explain how the picture from the space station had been wrongly identified. Everest is a sought-after photographic target for astronauts in orbit but is tricky to capture, according to astronaut Ron Garan, who lived on the ISS last year.

“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 said. — AFP


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