In 1977 Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune were entering a rare alignment that occurs every 175 years. This happened to be when humans were first attempting space exploration so we were coincidentally able to send Voyager 2 on a flyby of all four planets on its way out of the solar system.
In 2013, NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover hummed Happy Birthday to itself by vibrating its sample-analysis unit to obtain the musical tune, but did so only on its first “birthday”.
During the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission, to help USA/USSR relations, astronauts and cosmonauts played smuggled audio recordings of glasses clinking, laughter, and many female voices. Houston radioed to ask what’s going on. “Oh nothing,” they said. “We finished work, just having a party up here.”
Earlier this week, NASA fixed one of its Mars rovers by programming it to hit itself with a shovel.
The man credited with saving both Apollo 12 and Apollo 13 was forced to resign years later while serving as the Chief of NASA when Texas Senator Robert Krueger blamed him for $500 million of overspending on Space Station Freedom, which later evolved into the International Space Station (ISS).
On September 10, 1973, 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 was used to make it look like there was a stowaway.
Controllers in Houston were startled to hear a woman’s voice beaming down from Skylab. The voice startled capsule communicator (CAPCOM) Bob Crippen by calling him by name, and then the woman explained: “The boys haven’t had a home-cooked meal in so long I thought I’d bring one up.”
After several minutes in which she described forest fires seen from space and the beautiful sunrise, the woman said: “Oh oh. I have to cut off now. I think the boys are floating up here toward the command module and I’m not supposed to be talking to you.”
As the Skylab astronauts later revealed, Garriott had recorded his wife, Helen, during a private radio transmission the night before.
On December 16, 1965, NASA received a prank transmission from two astronauts: “We have an object, probably in polar orbit… I see a command Module and and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit.” They then started playing, “Jingle Bells”.
In the 50’s NASA recruited deaf people to research why they didn’t get motion sickness. Tests included flights in ‘Vomit Comet’ and sailing in the rough seas (researchers got violently sick, while deaf people just played cards happily).
In 1995, NASA astronomer Bob Williams wanted to point the Hubble telescope at the darkest part of the sky for 100 hours. Critics said it was a waste of valuable time, and he’d have to resign if it came up blank. Instead it revealed over 3,000 galaxies, in an area 1/30th as wide as a full moon.
Many of the Space Shuttles parts were produced exclusively by small mom and pop shops. When the shuttle retirement was announced, a lifetime buy of parts was made — when the Shuttle retired, the mom and pop shops retired with it.