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Top 5 NASA Facts that You Won't Believe

VO: Chris Masson

Top 5 Surprising NASA Facts Subscribe to Our YouTube Channel:

Yes, NASA don't pay their petty fines! Come on, astronauts! The heroes of such movies as Apollo 13, Interstellar, Gravity, The Martian and others, can't even scrounge up $200 to pay a littering ticket in Australia. Also in this episode of Top 5 Facts: asteroid practically made of money, an urban legend debunked, and Super Soakers!

Special thanks to our users Coriolanus Snow, jenit, and Kingdiamond1966 for submitting the idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Written by Sean Harris

Top 5 Fascinating NASA Facts

Houston, we have a countdown! Welcome to WatchMojo's Top 5 Facts. In this installment, we're counting down the top 5 most interesting and surprising things we could learn about NASA, the USA’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

#5: They Don’t Pay Their Petty Fines

NASA may be out of this world but it isn’t above the law, and it has a way weirder than average history of rule-breaking. In 1979, when the aborted Skylab mission re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere scattering debris in Western Australia, NASA was issued a ticket for littering by the Shire of Esperance – the fine was only paid up in 2009, after a US radio DJ sourced donations from his listeners! The Agency has a parking ticket to its name too, after Gregory W. Nemitz and his company Orbital Development laid claim to Asteroid 433 Eros, the precise location onto which NASA landed its NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft in 2001. The $20 fine was again unpaid. Perhaps the most incredible of NASA’s brushes with the law came in 1997 however, when it was sued by three men from Yemen for trespassing on Mars. The men claim the whole planet has been passed down to them by their ancestors. They later started selling plots of it for around $2 per square metre. When NASA landed its Pathfinder rover to explore the red planet it had effectively invaded, according to the Yemenis case. The claim was never taken especially seriously.

#4: NASA Has Less Funding Than Most Think… For Now

According to polls, the majority of Americans believe that huge amounts of the US budget are given to NASA, with some reports claiming that the average person thinks 20% of the country’s spending goes its way. According to official figures however, the US government spent most on space travel in the mid-‘60s, with a 4.41% of budget high point hit in 1966. That number has been below 1% since the seventies and recently has been around half a percent. Regardless, evidence suggests that NASA could prove a very sound investment in the long term. Asteroid and moon mining is set to be a sensationally lucrative venture as business pioneers look to the skies for valuable minerals which are abundant in space but rare on Earth. There are plans to build platinum mines on the moon in particular. Some experts say that space mining could be a reality by 2025. Remember the asteroid 433 Eros? Its “owners” estimate the platinum found in it to be worth about half a quintillion dollars. What was once ‘one small step for man’ could soon become one giant paycheck for mankind.

#3: They Are Prolific Inventors

NASA’s super-scientific team is responsible for more than just rocket ships: countless everyday inventions are a result of its work. Home insulation improved as NASA needed to keep astronauts safe during dramatic temperature changes on the Apollo missions; water filter systems were developed to prevent sickness and bacteria spread in space; freeze-dried food was developed in partnership with Nestle to bolster food stocks for long-haul missions; and through various experiments aiming to keep unmanned flights airborne for as long as possible NASA made huge advances in solar power technology. And if all that doesn’t impress, we’ve saved the best for last; Lonnie G. Johnson – AKA the inventor of the Super Soaker – was once a NASA engineer. One thing NASA didn’t invent: the space pen. An urban legend has it that they spent millions on creating them, while the Soviets simply used a pencil. NASA actually used pencils too, until the pressurized space-ready pen was invented by Paul Fisher of Fisher Space Pen Co.

#2: Astronaut Training Involves Brains, Brawn, and Maybe Michael Bay

There is no doubt that astronaut training is an incredibly difficult experience. The NASA candidate program is divided into three main sections – basic, advanced and intensive training – and takes up to two years to complete. In that time, would-be astronauts receive various levels of medical, mechanical and flight training, language courses, shuttle simulation tasks, fitness tests, gravity training and mission-specific briefings. From application to launch pad there is massive amounts of work required. Training at NASA is a lot of heavy textbooks and even heavier exercise routines, but there are some lighter moments. This is a hard claim to verify, but, reportedly, new managers and recruits are asked to watch the 1998 Bruce Willis blockbuster and list as many scientific inaccuracies as they can– a herculean task for most Michael Bay movies. The record reportedly stands at 168! This was reported back in 2007. I imagine that now they are watching Interstellar or Gravity.

#1: The Warp Drive Could Become Reality

Interstellar travel is arguably mankind’s most sought after scientific breakthrough, and while we have yet to achieve warp drive and NASA is often quick to downplay any progress made, it’s not for the want of trying. News of initial tests on a revolutionary ‘warp drive’ engine broke in April 2015, after a team at the Johnson Space Centre generated a small amount of thrust using the EmDrive, a British invention which bounces microwaves around a chamber to produce energy. There are theories that the method could inspire fuel-free travel faster than the speed of light thereby defying Einstein’s theory of relativity, but the technology is still in very early development. NASA is part of the 100 Year Starship venture, with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was set up in 2010 with faster-than-light-travel as its end goal. While Mars remains a primary mission, NASA is already looking well beyond the red planet – whether current generations live to see successful intergalactic gallivanting remains to be seen. Our fingers are well and truly crossed.

So, what do you think? Will we see interstellar travel or space mining in our lifetimes? For more Space Pen Top 10s and Soviet pencil Top 5s, be sure to subscribe to

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