Man Poses as Astronaut, Steals NASA Secrets

HOUSTON (Reuters) [6.04.1998] - A licensed airline pilot posing as an astronaut bluffed his way into a top-security NASA facility and got secret information on the space shuttle during an eight-month deception, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Jerry Alan Whittredge, 48, faces up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine for misrepresenting himself as a federal employee, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Southern Texas said.

Whittredge contacted NASA's Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama, in November, claiming he had been chosen for a space shuttle mission and requesting a tour of the facility.

According to an affidavit by NASA special agent Joseph Gutheinz, Whittredge told NASA officials that he was a CIA agent and held the Medal of Honor.

On the basis of his false credentials he was granted a tour on Nov. 21 and 22.

"Mr. Whittredge was permitted to sit at the console of NASA Mission Control (NASA's most secure area) at Marshall Space Flight Center during a shuttle mission," the affidavit said.

In March Whittredge tricked NASA into giving him confidential information about the shuttle's propulsion system and in May
he hoodwinked officials at Kingsville Naval Air Station in Texas into giving him training on a T-45 flight simulator.

Gutheinz said Whittredge had most recently been living in Texas but did not appear to be employed there and that he
also had a permanent address in Florida.

Whittredge made an initial appearance in court on Tuesday and is due to attend a bond hearing on Friday.

Last updated 6.12.2000