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NASA FACTS
LIFE ON EARTH
HUMANS IN SPACE
EXPLORING THE UNIVERSE

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On March 16, 1926, Dr. Robert H. Goddard successfully launched the first liquid fueled rocket. The launch took place at Auburn, Massachusetts, and is regarded by flight historians to be as significant as the Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk. On October 14, 1947, in the rocket powered Bell X-1, Capt. Charles E. Yeager flew faster than sound for the first time.
Did you know that data from satellite instruments are used by fishermen to find areas where fish are most likely to be found? Fish find food in zones where cold and warm water mix. Flatfish (halibut, flounder, turbot, and sole) hatch like any other "normal" fish. As they grow, they turn sideways and one eye moves around so they have two eyes on the side that faces up.
Less than three percent of all water on Earth is freshwater (usable for drinking) and of that amount, more than two-thirds is locked up in ice caps and glaciers. There are more than 326 million trillion gallons of water on Earth.
A geostationary satellite travels at an altitude of approximately 36,000 kilometers (22,000 miles) above the Earth and at a speed of about 11,000 kph (7,000 mph). On August 29, 1929 the Graf Zeppelin, a rigid airship (or dirigible), completed a historic flight around the world that included a nonstop leg from Friedrichshafen, Germany to Tokyo, Japan -- a distance of almost 7,000 miles. The airship was 100 feet in diameter and 110 feet high, including the gondola bumpers. During its operating life from 1928 to 1937, the Graf Zeppelin made 590 flights, covering more than a million miles. A total of 13,100 passengers were carried without a single injury.
Hurricane names are chosen from a list selected by the World Meteorological Organization. Each name on the list starts with a different letter; for example, the name of the first hurricane of the season starts with A, the next starts with B, and so on. The letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used. Did you know that glaciers, or huge ice sheets, covered large areas of North America and Europe 18,000 years ago? In fact, ice extended as far south as New York and the Ohio River Valley.
Did you know that improved hurricane forecasts, made possible by NASA satellites such as the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), can save as much as $1,000,000 per mile (1.6 km) of coast evacuated? Landsat was the series of revolutionary satellites that were first launched in 1972 for the purpose of systematically photographing the surface of the Earth from space.
The largest recorded specimen of the blue whale is 33 meters (110 feet) long -- about the height of an 11-story building. At any given moment, there are 1,800 thunderstorms happening somewhere on Earth. This amounts to 16 million storms each year! We know the cloud conditions that produce lightning, but we cannot forecast the location or time of a lightning strike.
In the mid-1960s the Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed digital image processing to allow computer enhancement of Moon pictures. Similar technology is now used by doctors and hospitals on images of organs in the human body. A mile, also called a "statute mile," is the unit of distance most U.S. citizens are familiar with. To convert statute miles into kilometers multiply the statute miles by 1.609347.
Before NASA was formed, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was started by President Woodrow Wilson to supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight. The NACA determined which problems should be experimentally worked on and discussed their solutions and their application to practical questions. The NACA also directed and conducted research and experiments in aeronautics. NASA became operational on October 1, 1958 -- one year after the Soviets launched Sputnik 1, the world's first artificial satellite.
The NASA Dryden Flight Research Center is located in Edwards, California. The B-52B, also known as the Stratofortress, is an air launch carrier aircraft, as well as a research aircraft platform that has been used on research projects. The B-52B was built in the 1950s and is NASA's oldest aircraft.
Sailors were the first to use nautical miles. One nautical mile is equal to one minute of latitude. Maps were drawn to follow this standard and world aviation standards still use the nautical mile. A nautical mile is equivalent to 1.1508 miles, or 6,076 feet, in the English measurement system. To convert nautical miles into kilometers multiply the nautical miles by 1.8520. Oceans cover almost three-quarters of the Earth. If all the ice in glaciers and ice sheets melted, the sea level would rise by about 80 meters -- about the height of a 26-story building.
Phytoplankton are tiny little plants that drift with the currents throughout the ocean. Did you know that a teaspoon of sea water can contain as many as a million one-celled phytoplankton? SR-71, also known as the "Blackbird," is the research aircraft used by NASA as a test bed for high-speed, high-altitude aeronautical research. It was secretly designed in the 1950s at Lockheed's Advanced Development Company, commonly known as "Skunk Works."
Have you ever heard a sonic boom? When an airplane travels at a speed faster than sound, density waves of sound emitted by the plane accumulate in a cone behind the plane. When this shock wave passes, a listener hears a sonic boom. Large meteors and the Space Shuttle frequently produce audible sonic booms before they are slowed to below the speed of sound by the Earth's atmosphere. The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft landed in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans when they returned to Earth.
A satellite is any object that travels around another object, such as the Earth around the sun, or the moon around the Earth. Man-made satellites are machines that are built here on Earth and then launched into space. The United Nations declared October 4-10, 1999 as World Space Week. These dates commemorate the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.
The Wright 1905 Flyer, the first practical airplane, flew for 33 minutes and 17 seconds, covering a distance of 20 miles, on October 4, 1905. Orville and Wilbur Wright made their first successful flight on December 17, 1903. Wilbur and Orville had two older brothers and a younger sister. None of the Wright children were given a middle name.
The Wright brothers' first flight was shorter than the wingspan of a B-52 bomber. After the first powered Wright Flyer of 1903 made history at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright brothers disassembled it and shipped it to Dayton, Ohio, where it was stored in a shed behind their bicycle shop for more than a decade. In March 1913, Dayton was hit by a serious flood, and the boxes containing the Flyer were submerged in water and mud for 11 days. In the summer of 1916 Orville repaired and reassembled the airplane for brief exhibition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The X-15 aircraft made a total of 199 flights over a period of nearly 10 years from 1959 to 1968. It set unofficial world speed and altitude records of 4,520 mph (Mach 6.7) and 354,200 feet. Information gained from the highly successful program contributed to the development of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft and the Space Shuttle program. Around the world, the ozone layer averages about 3 millimeters (1/8 inch) thick, approximately the same as two pennies stacked one on top of the other.




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Editor: Jim Wilson
NASA Official: Brian Dunbar
Last Updated: August 30, 2005
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