Next time you make a mistake on the job, don’t be too hard on yourself — as it turns out, even the folks at NASA get it wrong sometimes. Luckily, the error in question was fixed when a brilliant teenager spotted NASA’s mistake and corrected it. Miles Soloman, a 17-year-old student at Tapton School in Sheffield, United Kingdom, spotted a data error on the NASA International Space Station (ISS) and reached out to the agency.
Soloman discovered the mistake while analyzing a spreadsheet that listed energy and radiation levels in descending order and saw -1. It’s impossible to have negative energy, so he and his professor contacted NASA to alert them of the error.
The information examined by Soloman focused on the effects of space radiation on humans. The research was conducted by British astronaut Tim Peake over a period of six months, and the radiation detectors were available to U.K. students as part of the TimPix Project.
TimPix’s objective is for students to analyze data in real world terms and make discoveries of their own — but NASA probably didn’t expect that a teenager would help them fix a significant mistake.
According to one project collaborator, the error was due to an algorithm issue and NASA previously thought the mistake only cropped up once or twice a year.
When Soloman reached out to the agency, they took a closer look and realized that it actually occurs multiple times each day.
In addition to bragging rights for days, Soloman officially has one of the most impressive achievements to put on his college applications.