A Box Fell From the Sky. It Had a Note About Trump. The Police Were Not Amused.
A white box that landed in a solar panel field in New Jersey had a handwritten note attached. It said the device was not a bomb and wished President Trump a “great round of golf.”CreditNBC 4 New York
By Julia Jacobs
Aug. 10, 2018
When a white package fell from the sky and landed in central New Jersey this week, the people who found it were alarmed not only by the device’s strange hissing sound — but also by the handwritten note that referred to President Trump, the authorities said.
On Tuesday morning, the Styrofoam-wrapped package attached to a red parachute floated down from the atmosphere. It dropped onto a solar panel field in South Brunswick, N.J., about 25 miles south from where Mr. Trump was staying in Bedminster. People who work nearby called the authorities, and police officers, firefighters and a bomb squad responded to investigate the potential threat, according to a news release
from the South Brunswick Police Department.
The note, which appeared to have been written in black marker, said, “NASA Atmospheric Research Instrument NOT A BOMB!”
It went on: “If this lands near the President, we at NASA wish him a great round of golf.”
The all-caps assurance that the package was not, in fact, a bomb did little to quell the anxieties of those who discovered it.
But on Thursday, the Police Department assured the public that no one had been put in danger by this “suspicious” package. The box was merely an ozone monitoring device released into the air by NASA.
The note that sparked the chaos was written by an undergraduate intern employed by NASA, said Katherine Brown, a NASA spokeswoman. She said that the added text about President Trump was a “misguided attempt to be lighthearted,” and that the student was removed from the project. “We are taking steps to standardize the labeling on these scientific instruments.”
The device was one of six released on Sunday from the New Brunswick area, the news release said. It was part of the Long Island Sound Tropospheric Ozone Study, which analyzes air pollution in the New York City region. The study involves a few dozen organizations, including NASA, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
Considering the device’s appearance, it is not surprising that people thought it could be a bomb, said Paul Miller, deputy director of Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, a nonprofit behind the study.The gadget
, which he said was about six square inches, typically contains wires and makes beeping noises. The reported hissing was likely the sound of a pump sucking in air through a sensor to measure air pollution, Mr. Miller said.
The attached note did not help ease the tension. “Putting a note on it saying it’s not a bomb makes it seem like it is a bomb,” he said.
The Police Department said that there were no charges related to the incident, and that extra precautions were taken because Mr. Trump was staying in the area.
Secret Service agents interviewed NASA employees that day and quickly confirmed there was no threat, said Patrick Lynch, a NASA spokesman.
Ms. Brown said that the ozone monitoring device was launched from a site owned by Rutgers University, but that the institution was not involved in the project.
These types of instruments sometimes float back down to dry land, Ms. Brown said, which is why researchers append notes describing the device’s purpose. However, the devices typically fall into the Atlantic Ocean after they have done their duty, Mr. Miller said.
Scientists who depend on such devices hope the unexpected burst of publicity will not hinder their research. This study — which combines state, federal and academic resources — focuses on tracking air pollution
that is carried by a sea breeze from New York City to areas of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
“We’re hoping this little glitch won’t throw a wrench in it,” Mr. Miller said. “We don’t want the big picture to get lost.”https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/10/us/nasa-package-donald-trump-new-jersey.html