People around the world, including Sri Lankans, are fascinated to learn more about space related events and astronomy. Great interest is received on social media also for posts concerned with astronomy and space travel.
Below is an investigation about social media claims which went viral, claiming that a young Muslim girl had been selected as the first Sri Lankan female astronaut to travel to space.
Social Media Posts
Facebook users claimed that a Muslim girl named Fatima Sadha is tipped to make history as the first Muslim woman from Sri Lanka to go into space as seen below.
“International NASA company selected Negombo Sri Lankan Muslim lady.”
The text in these viral posters congratulated Fatima Sadha studying at a private school in Negombo was selected as a “Space Warrior” by NASA will make history as the first Muslim woman from Sri Lanka to go into space
The posts were viral mainly in Sinhala & Tamil languages.
We decided to do an investigation over this.
We first attempted to check the facts about the girl in this picture using her image and name. It was found that the girl referred to in these posts was actually Sadha Haroon and she had great interest in space technology.
However, there wasn’t any mention of her being selected by a space exploration agency to become an astronaut in any of the mainstream media streams. Sadha had posted regularly in her social media handles as well, yet we did not find news of any such achievement mentioned on these posts either.
She is active in projects like Mars Generation, which educates the public about space technologies as well as science and technology, engineering etc. From her schooling days, Sadha had formed various associations with people who are curious about space technology. More details about this can be taken from here. Archived.
Young Sadha has also joined and formed various societies for the promotion of space technology and science among women and has been an active member in these ventures.
A video of Sahda talking about her future aspirations can be watched from here.
We also contacted Sailan International School , and a teacher from the school confirmed that Sadha had studied up to her O/L’s at Sailan. Due to the number of queries, subsequent to viral social media posts, Sadha had informed the school that she was planning to publish a clarification video regarding in coming days. We hope to update this article once that’s available as well.
Eligibility to be selected as an astronaut for NASA
The viral posts had purported that Sadha has been selected to be an astronaut at NASA as well. However, the NASA official website has not given any details regarding anyone named Sadha Haroon.
Moreover, although NASA has many ways to connect with students to promote space exploration, that does not necessarily mean that they would be selected by NASA for space exploration. There are a number of basic qualifications to become an astronaut at NASA, and Sadha has not yet fulfilled these criteria.
We did a detailed analysis on these qualifications required by NASA to be selected as an astronaut in a similar fact check done in 2021 on another young aspiring astronaut named Alyssa Carson. More on that can be found in this Sinhala language fact check
Also, a few years ago, NASA experts had selected the winners of a Patch Design Challenge related to a project called Tynker, among which name of a young student from Sri Lanka was included. Megha Wijewardene is another child prodigy of Sri Lankan origin living in Australia who had taken part in the NASA Space Apps Challenge a few years ago.
Recently, the media reported details about another young girl with a dream of becoming an astronaut named Sadali Kumarasinha. She is currently pursuing her higher studies in Aeronautical Engineering Technology as reported here. Like Sadha Haroon, Sadali has also contributed to the Mars Generation project. Details on yet another young aspiring Sri Lankan girl related to space studies can be found here.
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Our investigation confirmed Sadha Haroon’s dreams to be an astronaut in future and has started her initial steps in this regard by pursuing studies in related fields and getting involved in public awareness programs related to astronomy, space technology etc.
However, NASA or any other space exploration agency has not yet selected Sadha for any astronaut training program with an aim of sending her to space yet. Therefore, it is misleading to call her the first Sri Lankan woman having been selected to become an astronaut.
Title:Fathima Sadha (Sadha Haroon) has NOT been selected as the first Sri Lankan female astronaut ? Find Out the Facts…Fact Check By: Kalana Krishantha