40 Amazing Facts About NASA’s Space Programs and Missions

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1Nuclear power

Nuclear power

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.


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


3. 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.


4. 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.


5. 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%.


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6Big Bird

Big Bird

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.


7. 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.


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


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


10. 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.


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11Lunar outpost

Lunar outpost

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.


12. 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.


13. 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.


14. 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.


15. 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.


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16Technology

Technology

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


17. 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.


18. 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).


19. Thad Roberts was a former intern at NASA, who served a 6-year sentence in a federal prison after having sex with his girlfriend on a bed full of stolen moon rocks gathered from the Apollo 11 moon landing mission.


20. NASA no longer has the original recording of the moon landing because it has been recorded over and reused. NASA admitted it back in 2006.


21NASA controllers

NASA controllers

For the first Moon landing, the average age of NASA controllers was 26 years old.


22. When you speak inside your mind small muscles in your throat mimic the formation of each word, and NASA is working on a machine (Subvocal speech) that would detect these muscle movements and transcribe them to words.


23. During the planning for NASA's moon landings of the 1960s, it was suggested that the United Nations flag be used instead of the U.S. flag.


24. NASA and the JPL has released retro/futuristic artwork, available for free, that illustrate what space exploration might eventually mean to the human race.


25. Stefania Follini is an Italian interior designer recruited by NASA in 1989 for an experiment in Circadian Rhythms, where she spent 4 months in underground isolation proving our bodies naturally fall into 28-hour day, and later on a 48-hour one.

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