As related by Steve Johnson and verified using teh Internets, "the writer claimed to be an astronaut on the International Space Station who couldn't return from space due to a revolution in his country putting a halt to its space program. Fortunately, his rich uncle had just died, and if you'd let him use your bank account to route the money to China (for which you'd of course be rewarded), the Chinese would sell him a spot on their space shuttle."
A hunt at The Register turned up a similar case, only this time the gent was stuck on a secret Soviety military space station "Salyut 8T".
Having accumulated $15 million in back pay-- wow, secret ops pays better than I thought! -- he needed a $3 million down payment to fly down via a Soyuz. Which, if you think about it, is kinda weird. Rich folks got charged just $1 million to train and fly with the Russians, so $3 million to bring back a guy staffing their station seems a bit high.
It reminds me of a Perestroika-era FOAF tale, a guy was trying to move his usual cargo out of Russian customs and the port broker was demanding a $10,000 bribe, far beyond the usual. The guy just said, look, I can hire a hit man for $1,000, why would I pay you $10K?
In any case, least you be suckered into helping other stranded astronauts, these are simply extreme cases of '319' scams. Do not transfer or manipulate money to help astronauts return home. It's a known fact that astronaut return trips home are guaranteed.
Unless you're going to Mars. In which case Jim McLane may someday be emailing you, too, asking for $3 million for a return seat...
Tuesdays at The Satellite Diaries and Friday at The Daytime Astronomer (twitter @skyday)
p.s. bonus points if you can tell where I got the photo of secret space ships from.
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