50 Interesting Facts about NASA

1Bob Ebeling

Bob Ebeling, one of the main engineers behind NASA's Challenger rocket, which exploded in 1986, revealed that after NASA would not heed his warnings against launching in the cold weather, he told his wife the night before the launch, "It's going to blow up."

2. NASA has 2 satellites chasing each other around the Earth tracking the distance between themselves to measure gravitational anomalies. Their nicknames are Tom and Jerry.

3. Not only did a private US company pay for the research for the inexpensive "space pen" NASA uses, but the pen worked so well that the Soviets bought it, too.

4. The Minnesota Vikings' new stadium cost more than a NASA mission to Pluto.

5. A NASA astronaut (Don L. Lind) waited 19 years to fly in space. He was selected in 1966 but was chosen for canceled missions, or as a backup for missions. He said, "I was backing up two of the most depressingly healthy people you can imagine." He finally flew on the space shuttle in 1985.

6Pete Conrad

Apollo 12 commander Pete Conrad's first word upon setting foot on the Moon was "Whoopee!" in order to win a $500 bet with an Italian journalist that NASA didn't script astronaut declarations.

7. To shoot the candlelight-only scenes in the movie Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick used rare f/0.7 camera lenses manufactured by Carl Zeiss for NASA. Zeiss made only ten of the lenses; he sold three to Kubrick and six to NASA, who used them in the Apollo program to photograph the dark side of the moon.

8. According to NASA, the use of nuclear power prevented an average of over 1.8 million net deaths worldwide between 1971-2009 as a result of lower air pollution from reduced coal usage.

9. Before her 7-day trip to space, NASA engineers asked Sally Ride if 100 tampons was the right number for the mission.

10. NASA accidentally auctioned off for just $995 a bag that was used by Apollo 11 astronauts to collect the first lunar sample. When the buyer sent the bag to NASA for verification, the space agency realized its mistake and refused to return it.

11Owen Garriott

NASA Astronaut Owen Garriott successfully pranked flight controllers by playing a recording of his wife whilst on SkyLab. There were no women on board the space station and he made it look like there was a stowaway.

12. A 1997 poll found that Americans thought NASA represented approximately 20% of the federal budget. In reality, NASA represented 0.9% of the federal budget. The record high level of NASA funding was 4.4%.

13. NASA wanted to send Big Bird into space on the Challenger in 1986 to get children interested in space. The Big Bird suit was too big, however, so they sent teacher Christa McAuliffe instead. The Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff.

14. There's a team of NASA scientists (HI-SEAS IV mission) who've been pretending they're on Mars for nearly a year. They live and work in a dome on the side of a Hawaiian volcano and only go out in spacesuits.

15. In 1969, NASA possessed the technology to land on the moon but not the technology to fake the moon landings.


In 2006, "to understand and protect the home planet" was quietly removed from NASA's mission statement.

17. Quinoa is so nutritionally dense and complete that it is being considered a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned space expeditions.

18. NASA has decided to use Metric Units for all operations on the lunar surface when it returns to the Moon. The Vision for Space Exploration calls for returning astronauts to the Moon by 2020 and eventually setting up a manned lunar outpost.

19. NASA hires a man named George Aldrich to sniff everything that they send to space. If he doesn't like the smell, it doesn't go to space.

20. The second American in space (Gus Grissom) had hayfever and was almost disqualified from astronaut training until NASA realized the absence of pollen in space.

21James Irwin

James Irwin, one of the test pilots for the interceptor version of the SR-71 was chosen for Apollo 15 mission to the Moon. He had a heart attack after his moonwalk and the only reason anybody knew was that NASA noticed it on his heart monitor. It was left out of the mission debriefing records.

22. The Super Soaker inventor (Lonnie Johnson) is a Tuskegee-trained NASA engineer who used the money earned from the toy to do research on solar power and batteries.

23. NASA has a list of accurate space technology terms that writers can use in Science Fiction stories.

24. The three-member crew of NASA's Skylab 4 mission staged a one-day mutiny where they shut off all communication with the ground control and spent the day relaxing and looking at the Earth.

25. Go fever is a term used by NASA to describe a few of their major disasters (Apollo 1/Challenger/Columbia). It describes a culture that develops when costs have mounted, and dissent is suppressed or ignored (due to group members not wanting to be seen as committed to the team's progress).



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