The Royal Society knew nothing about it. The United Nations referred all queries to the switchboard of Unoosa in Vienna. Its switchboard number wasn’t much help. “The person at extension 4951 is unavailable, please leave your message after the tone,” it said. Those messages might make for some interesting listening today.

Finally an email from Othman herself would have prompted our Martian to trudge back to his spaceship. “It sounds really cool but I have to deny it,” she said of the story. She will be attending a conference next week, but she’ll be talking about how the world deals with “near-Earth objects”.