By Jethro Wegener
A Nigerian astronaut is asking for help. Air Force Major Abacha Tunde has apparently been stranded on a top secret Soviet-era military space station, the Salyut 8T, since 1990. A scam letter, sent by the Major’s cousin, is asking for money to help mount a rescue mission to get him home. After trying once in 2004, he is once again making a public plea to bring him back to earth. Unfortunately, the effects of 26 years in space mean he might not be the man he once was.
The human body undergoes various changes up there, as it wasn’t designed for the microgravity environment. These changes run the gambit from mental to physical, and since no one (with the possible exception of Maj. Tunde) has spent much more than a year in space, we can only really speculate on what long term exposure might do.
Since our bodies have evolved for a comfy 1G environment, they are simply not equipped to deal with the prolonged effects of zero gravity. The first thing that happens is a stretching of the spine, sort of like releasing the pressure off of a coiled spring. Astronauts returning to earth are found to be up to 3% taller than they were when they left, meaning by conservative calculation, today Maj. Tunde could be over 2.6m, assuming he was of average height prior to going into space. On the bright side, all he would need to get a job in the next Avatar movie would be some relatively cheap blue paint.
Another thing that happens is the deterioration of bones and muscle. On earth, our bodies stay strong because they are constantly fighting against gravity. In space, the muscles literally turn to jelly. Even with the regulated 2.5hours of exercise done by those in space every day, cosmonauts often can’t walk when they return to earth. Bones aren’t safe either, as they lose 1% density every month. So, by now Major Tunde no longer has any bones left, having been up there for 312 months. The longest anyone has previously been in space is 439 days, a record set by Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov.
Living on a space station can also cause a variety of psychological issues. Imagine being confined to a weightless, cramped, Soviet-era environment for months, let alone years. Your senses are dulled, flavours are muted and you are sleep-deprived. It’s enough to drive anyone mad – contrary to the letter stating that he’s in ‘good spirits’.
Poor Major Tunde
If he ever did return to earth, it’s safe to assume his family won’t recognise him anymore. He would look like an alien – tall, emaciated, bug-eyed, boneless – and as mad as a hatter. So please, spare a thought for the lone Nigerian in space. His chances of leading a normal life again are slimmer than James Cameron’s Na’vi.
Thankfully, the brave Major has continued to be paid during his long years alone. He has $15 million in back wages, waiting in escrow for when he returns. The good news is he only needs $3 million to fly back to earth – he has more than enough funds, but wait! Surprise surprise, he needs your bank account to access the cash.
Just in case you believe his plight or simply want to read this masterpiece of a scam letter in question, written by a certain Dr. Bakare Tunde, Astronautics Project Manager at the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), here’s the link. We suspect that this letter probably had a role to play in the development of The Martian…
Scam Contest Alert!
Campus Magazine will be holding a contest to see who can write the funniest and most original scam letter! We will be posting a guide to writing your own scam letter soon, as well as full contest details. Exciting prizes will be up for grabs, so be sure to check back here for more.