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NASA's Astronaut Twitter Account Hacked

Houston,we have a social networking problem. NASA's digital gurus got a nasty, butbrief, surprise Friday when a hacker broke into the agency's astronaut Twitterfeed to peddle flat screen televisions.

TheInternet incursion occurred on the @NASA_Astronauts feed, whichredistributes official NASA Twitter posts from the spaceagency's web savvy astronauts who post messages about their missions from Earthand space.

"Itappears our @NASA_Astronauts account may have been hacked," NASAspokesperson Stephanie Schierholz told  "Five sales tweetswere sent from the account."

Shierholzsaid NASA's Twitter overseers spotted the hacking in less than 15 minutes andimmediately fought back.

"Weclosely monitor our, and once the issue was discovered?we took correctiveaction," she said.

Allfive interloping posts were aimed at advertising LCD or plasma flat screentelevisions.

"Ourapologies for the odd Twitter behavior earlier. We have fixed theproblem," NASA posted on the @NASA_Astronauts feed. "Back to tweetsfrom NASA astronauts."

NASAuses the microblogging website Twitter as an outreach tool to spread messagesabout its astronauts, space centers, and manned and robotic space missions. [Twin Astronauts onTwitter]

Lastyear, the space agency won a Shorty Award for the Twitter posts from its Mars Phoenix Lander mission, whichlanded a probe in the Martian arctic in May 2008.

NASAastronaut MikeMassimino,a veteran Hubble Space Telescope repairman, was the first spaceflyer to sendTwitter updates from space as a way to share the experience of training andflying on the final mission to Hubble in May 2009.  Massimino posts as@Astro_Mike and, as of today, has 1,278,812 followers.

Earlierthis year, NASA set up the first direct Internet forastronautson the International Space Station, which allows the station crew to surf theweb and post their Twitter updates directly from space (Massimino sent messagesto Mission Control, which then posted them from Earth).

NASAastronaut Douglas Wheelock, who posts Twitter updates as @Astro_Wheels, iscurrently the chief Twitter astronaut on the space station. He arrived at thestation last month and sends messages and photos to Earth via Twitter.

"Anotherbreathtaking sunset?we get 16 of these each day in Earth orbit, each one atreasured moment.," Wheelock wrote in his latest post. "Thatbeautiful thin blue line is what makes our home so special in the cosmos. Spaceis cool?but, the Earth is a raging explosion of life in a vast sea ofdarkness."

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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.