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There was a time when space exploration was one of the most popular and exciting things around. These days, NASA doesn’t get as much love, but they’re still doing amazing things. Check out these facts from the heyday of space exploration and from NASA’s current efforts.
1. When John F. Kennedy was President, he tasked NASA with getting a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s. They only just reached their goal, hitting the milestone on July 20, 1969.
2. The space shuttle Enterprise never actually flew in space but was actually a test subject for reusable crafts. It was originally named the Constitution, but Star Trek fans campaigned to change the name.
3. The Discovery is one of the most impressive spacecrafts ever. It flew 39 space missions between 1984 and 2011, the most of any craft. It was also the first shuttle to launch again after both the Challenger and the Columbia tragedies.
4. NASA is proof that we’re living in the future. They’re currently working on a warp drive that could get us to Alpha Centauri in just two weeks.
5. Despite NASA’s amazing feats, they operate on a shoe-string budget. In 1997, a poll showed that most Americans thought NASA took up 20% of the federal budget. In reality, they have gotten less than 1 cent on the dollar since 1975.
6. In addition to being amazing scientists, the folks at NASA have brought us some other great things. The Super Soaker was actually an invention of a NASA scientist.
7. We almost didn’t have one of our most famous astronauts: Neil Armstrong was a week late sending in his NASA application. Thankfully his friend Dick Day snuck it into the correct pile and Armstrong was hired.
8. Due to the seriously dangerous nature of their job, the Apollo astronauts couldn’t qualify for life insurance, and unfortunately NASA didn’t insure them either. Instead, they signed a pile of autographs before they left, hoping the signatures would become valuable if they died while in space.
9. One of NASA’s most amazing discoveries is Mira, a dying star that is currently flying through the universe and shedding matter. Each of those tiny bits of star could grow into new stars of their own, prompting NASA to name it “The Johnny Appleseed of the Universe.”
10. After NASA landed on Mars, three men from Yemen sued them for trespassing because they had inherited the planet from their ancestors.
11. Just to be safe, NASA has an Office of Planetary Protection.