Twenty-six years in space is no easy feat.
Apparently, a gentleman going by the name of Abacha Tunde has achieved just that, according to an email that has landed in the inbox of Anorak and has since gone viral.
The email is allegedly written by Mr. Tunde’s cousin, Dr. Bakare Tunde, an astronautics project manager from Abuja, Nigeria.
Take a look at the email below.
Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home
Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA)
Garki, Abuja, FCT NIGERIA
Dear Mr. Sir,
REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE-STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL
I am Dr. Bakare Tunde, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor but wants to come home.
In the 14-years since he has been on the station, he has accumulated flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American Dollars. This is held in a trust at the Lagos National Savings and Trust Association. If we can obtain access to this money, we can place a down payment with the Russian Space Authorities for a Soyuz return flight to bring him back to Earth. I am told this will cost $ 3,000,000 American Dollars. In order to access the his trust fund we need your assistance.
Consequently, my colleagues and I are willing to transfer the total amount to your account or subsequent disbursement, since we as civil servants are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service Laws) from opening and/ or operating foreign accounts in our names.
Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is enormous. In return, we have agreed to offer you 20 percent of the transferred sum, while 10 percent shall be set aside for incidental expenses (internal and external) between the parties in the course of the transaction. You will be mandated to remit the balance 70 percent to other accounts in due course.
Kindly expedite action as we are behind schedule to enable us include downpayment in this financial quarter.
Please acknowledge the receipt of this message via my direct number 234 (0) 9-234-2220 only.
Yours Sincerely, Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
Before we delve into the veracity of the claims, let’s look at the poignancy of it all.
We are talking about an astronaut who was left in space by his crew in favor of “return cargo.”
An astronaut who made his first space flight way back in 1979. Assuming him to be at least 25 when he did that, that makes Mr. Tunde easily above 60 years of age right now. So we are actually talking about a senior citizen astronaut here. A senior citizen astronaut waiting patiently to be rescued for the last 26 years.
Now comes the most poignant part. Despite the privations of these endless years, Mr. Tunde is still in “good humor.” Can you imagine the quantity of stoicism required for pulling that off?
Now let’s move on to veracity.
How many of you actually believed in the email? It can be safely assumed that a majority of you did not, barring a few extremely innocent, gullible souls for whom this email was really meant. They were the “target audience,” a minuscule but juicy group.
This email is a prime example of the art of spam. A very modern art form that demands of its practitioners an incredible amount of linguistic flamboyance, attention to detail, and shamelessness.
Note that the email is doubly specific about the gender it is being addressed to (“Dear Mr. Sir”), implying that the writer is either a woman or a man with impeccable chivalric instincts, always keeping the ladies and the children away from harm’s way (unlike this guy).
Those of you with a mathematical bent of mind wouldn’t have failed to notice that the dates don’t add up. In the second paragraph, Dr. Bakare claims that his cousin has been stranded in space for 14 years. In the previous paragraph, he had claimed that the man had been up there since 1990. A quick calculation would tell you that the duration of the stay in 2016 should be 26 years, not 14 years. And therein lies the rub.
This space saga is not of our time — it dates back to the pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, pre-viral era of the internet when things were much more rudimentary, like this.
Yes, the Nigerian astronaut email is an old artifact, dating back to 2004, and had been first reported by the Register (an IT-centric website with a distinctly traitorous tagline: “Biting the hand that feeds IT”).
The guy who dug out this genealogical information is Deji Bryce Olukotun, a writer of Nigerian descent who has authored a novel called Nigerians In Space. Since the astronaut story went viral, Deji has written a post about it, and reading it, you immediately get a sense of how it would be to experience the same story from a Nigerian perspective.
Here’s Deji’s take on the funniness of the story.
“Is the scam funny because we can’t envision Nigerians going into space on their own initiative? This would be a troubling indictment of African progress, or at least of our perceptions of African progress, because, again, there has been a lot of it, especially in technology.”
Nigeria is among the rare African nations with a full-fledged space program (the NASRDA URL mentioned in the email is an actual government website). It has already launched five satellites. It plans to put an actual Nigerian in space before 2020. It also plans a moon probe by 2030. In another 50 years, you never know how far the Nigerian space program would go.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that maybe 200 years from now, a Nigerian would be reading a spam mail by an alleged American/Russian/Chinese astronaut stranded in hyperspace, and smiling broadly at the thought.
[Image via Shutterstock]