It seems that James Oberg was annoyed enough by Ken's imposturing in India that he informed NASA, who in turn informed the State Department that someone was posing as an astronaut and "chief trainer at NASA." Quicker than you can say "Glass domes on the Moon," Ken became persona non grata and was quite firmly asked to go home last Saturday. It became a big story on Assam TV, and the report found its way onto Youchoob. Since Bengali and English are both official languages (along with Assamese and Bodo--wow, confusing!) the report was in Bengali but they had no problem interviewing Ken in English. It had its comic side--the interviewer simply phoned Ken and held his Smartphone up to the studio camera. Amazingly, the audio was pretty good, although I had a hard time hearing the questions. Here's what transpired.
KJ: I was taken by [?] by this woman... It's... looks like it's "Hanakeshi" [phon] ... took me to the airport and er.. sent me to, um, the capital of India, and said I should.. I should get me a ticket and go back to the United States, so I was or... I was ordered to leave.
KJ: That's correct.
Q: ...you were sent back to New Delhi then you went back to the United States?
KJ: I was sent back to... I was sent to New Delhi under orders to fly back to the United States.
KJ: The way they did that is ...um.. I thought I was being evicted early but, erm... what's the term when you're kicked out of a country? I was told to get a ticket and leave the country.
Q: ...did they give you any kind of reason Sir? Why they were sending you back?
KJ: No. The only reason was that...ahhh... they... they did not want to get involved in a big... a big mess or something ... I don't know how she said it, but, er... it was [instructions to someone]... OK. The only thing I could get out of them was that.. ahh... they did not want to be involved in any kind of a conflict, and even though I gave them copies of all of my documents and everything else, proving that I am who I am.. that I was a civilian astronaut consultant pilot. But they apparently were dealing with a letter or something from a guy by the name of James Oberg from... ah, from the United States. And I guess they were just taking his word over... over the documents that I provided.
Q: ...are you going to write a letter to the Prime Minister of India...
KJ: Yes, I do plan on getting a letter written, probably today.
KJ: Well, the only thing is that my role [..] in India was to talk to young people, like I do here in the United States, and motivate them to get the education and be involved in ... in space travel, everything that we're doing. And it.. it was going just fine until this idiot James Oberg comes in and accuses me of all kinds of stuff. I've dealt with him before, and each time I... we provide documents and everything, and shoot him down, and, you know, show that he's the one that's causing all this trouble. So...um...the whole thing is that I really did enjoy going and dealing with the young people, and, um, promoting India's space program. And to be evicted or barred from India was horrible and you know I don't know if I ever even will be invited back to India, not the way in which I was rushed out, shipped off, and gotten rid of like.. I don't know what the deal was. It was just... it was extremely embarrassing, frustrating, and I hope that we can do something that we can restore my... umm.. my reputation. Because reputations are all that we have.
James Oberg comments:
I could care less if anybody claims to have invented Saran Wrap or swam the Atlantic or was trained by space aliens in childhood, but when somebody smears the reputations of men I've worked with at NASA as liars and frauds, and invents imaginary 'credentials' to lend credibility to those baseless smears, I draw the line. I figure my debt to those now-dead colleagues, and to history, compels me to defend reality and protect future generations from cultural toxins like those smears. But not by responding with symmetric personal attacks, instead by finding and presenting documents contrary to the claimed expertise of the original accuser. Johnston served honorably in the US Marines and during the Apollo and early shuttle program, and subsequently as an inspiration to young people for aerospace careers, for which we all can be grateful. His complaint over having to pay for his own ticket home confirms that he had bamboozled two free round-trip excursions from his hosts, and the second one found out his identity wasn't what he claimed -- he may be liable for charges of fraudulently obtaining government funds in India.Ken was certainly being disingenuous when he protested that he really, really was a civilian astronaut consultant pilot. As he well knows, he was content to be described falsely as a NASA astronaut everywhere in India, and have an image of himself displayed in an Apollo spacesuit (actually he was shopped into a pic of Mike Collins, CMP of Apollo 11.)
Johnston lecturing at Hindustan University, 7thFebruary
Not to mention that his use of the title "Doctor" is also false labeling. Tut tut, Ken Johnston.
Update 8 March
Seems Ken got his letter of protest off to the Indian PM. Here's part of it:
"I was sent to New Delhi without even being given a chance to defend myself. I had to purchase my own ticket back to the US for over $1,200, even though I had been brought to India (Assam) and had been promised airfare home ... This would be an international crime that you deported a foreign passenger, just as such, based it on a single email ... please register this as a complaint and take severe action. I was told that a GUEST IS A GOD in your country but thugs like these are ruining your country's reputation. I hope that concerned actions will be taken soon and justice will be done to me and financial accommodations promised will be fulfilled."The India Telegraph published an updated account of the scandal two days ago, but its sequence of events is wrong. The article says "[ASTEC] decided to send him away when it received an email from another former NASA associate named James Oberg claiming that Johnston was a "'cheat.'" Oberg did indeed e-mail ASTEC, but not until 2 March, by which time Johnston was already gone. Oberg never used the word cheat, either. His message said, in part:
"I am seeking further information about the visit to your society off Ken Johnston, who often describes himself as a NASA Apollo consultant astronaut and training leader for the Apollo program. This is all untrue. He is well known in the United States as an imposter with a fake "PhD" and wild stories about secret astronaut photographs of aliens on the moon."The bottom line, for me, is a brief statement from Arup Kumar Misra, ASTEC director, "We were informed that NASA denounced him so we had to send him back." Oberg did stick his nose in but it was NASA who pulled the plug on Ken Johnston.