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.
NASA hires a chief sniffer to inspect the smell of every item before it enters space. The lack of ventilation means astronauts are stuck with the smells that are onboard with them.
In 1920, The New York Times ridiculed Robert H. Goddard and claimed that rockets could not function in space. On July 17, 1969, a day after the Apollo 11 launch, NYT formally acknowledged their error.
NASA has a long standing tradition to wake up astronauts with a specially selected track of music each day, usually picked by friends or family members, called “Wake Up Calls”.
Alligators have been a long-running problem for NASA, including climbing over their fences and entering buildings over night.
On September 15 1989, NASA published a comprehensive report on house plants that are best for cleaning indoor air pollution.