NASA is fed up with your lies, Internet.
For the second time in the past two months, the space agency has been placed at the center of an online hoax. The latest attempt comes from the United Kingdom’s Jamie Jones, who posted the following NASA correspondence on his blog today regarding a “new” form of rocket propulsion.
Jpebcac commented, “That’s not NASA’s letterhead, at least hasn’t been for quite some time. Source: real letter of NASA pinned up at local retirement home thanking him for his long career there.”
NASA itself set the record straight on Twitter this afternoon.
— NASA (@NASA) November 23, 2013
Jones has a long history of viral forgeries. He previously produced fake letters from Guinness World Records, Cadbury, and webuyanycar.com.
It began during the U.S. government shutdown, which had placed about 800,000 federal employees temporarily out of work in a partisan dispute over the Affordable Care Act. The furloughed employees included 17,400 NASA staffers, leaving just a skeleton staff to monitor crucial operations like the International Space Station.
On Oct. 1 at about 4pm, rememberthe13th.com was registered on Namecheap.com. It was shortly after NASA publicly announced on Twitter, “Due to the gov’t shutdown, all public NASA activities/events are cancelled or postponed until further notice.”
By that evening, Remember the 13th was up and running. The site featured a cute rocketship a promise to release the “biggest discovery that will shake the Earth” on Nov. 13. It used the official NASA logo.
“The website is currently being tweeted 100 times per minute and has over 50k facebook shares,” read a message the Daily Dot received promoting Remember the 13th. “It has took over worldwide forums and social media. Worldwide news media reports the announcement could be alien life [sic].”
Because of the government shutdown, NASA was unable to defend itself against the hoax. That duty was instead picked up by Reddit’s r/conspiracy forum and 4chan’s paranormal imageboard, /x/, which broke down the Remember the 13th hoax piece by piece. By Oct. 6, Remember the 13th was forced to finally show its hand.
The result: a terrible music video for a song called “Purple Ninja.”
Photo via NASA