NASA has made many strides for science over their long history, but a few accomplishments stand out in particular. Here are the agency’s greatest success stories.


1. Discovering the sun, 1958

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For hundreds of years, scientists were perplexed by the mysterious force that kept our planet warm and lit during the day. Then in 1958, one NASA astronomer accidentally jostled his telescope while cleaning it and inadvertently pointed it right at the sun. Looking through it, he noticed an immense, glowing orb. The new discovery was named after NASA’s administrator at the time, Gerald Sun.


2) Apollo 11 racing the Soviet rocket to the moon, 1969

via NASA

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On July 16, 1969, during the height of the Cold War, the U.S. and Russia both launched manned rockets in hopes of reaching the moon first. Things started off disastrously for America, with the NASA rocket refusing to start for nearly 30 seconds until Buzz Aldrin smacked the dashboard in frustration, miraculously bringing the engine to life. The Soviets now had a considerable head start, so Neil Armstrong suggested they take a shortcut through a meteor shower. The plan worked, and Apollo 11 pulled out in front of the Soviets just in time to beat them to the lunar surface. The Russians were so surprised that they skidded out of control, and crashed down to Earth right into a manure warehouse.


3. Firing an arrow into space, 1973

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Since the dawn of space travel, mankind has wondered what would happen if you fired a longbow in space. Would the arrow keeping going forever? In 1973, astronauts on the Skylab space station finally got a chance to test it out, and the experiment did not disappoint! The arrow they shot kept going until the astronauts lost sight of it. Maybe it eventually fell down to Earth, or maybe it’s still flying through space today. Either way, it was pretty neat.


4) Hubble Space Telescope, 1990

via spacetelescope.org

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The launch of the Hubble Space Telescope allowed humanity to glimpse further into the cosmos than ever before. By peering billions of light-years into deep space, astronomers discovered a formation of hundreds of galaxies spelling out the message “HINDUISM IS THE CORRECT RELIGION.” It was a profound scientific breakthrough that forever changed the way humanity viewed its place in the universe.


5) Apollo 13 adapted into a film, 1995

via Universal Pictures

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On June 30, 1995, NASA finally achieved mainstream success with the release of Apollo 13, a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks. A thrilling tale of a spaceflight disaster and astronauts surviving against the odds, it reached No. 1 in the U.S. box office and turned NASA into a household name. After years of toiling in obscurity, NASA had finally hit the big time.


6) Spending money down on Earth, where it can actually do some good, 2015

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In 2015, NASA launched their most ambitious project yet. Instead of wasting billions to shoot robots at some far-off planet, they decided to instead fix up the planet we already got by donating their entire annual budget to an underfunded public school in inner-city Baltimore. The program was a huge success, vastly raising student test scores and graduation rates. NASA was so pleased with the results of this experiment that as of March 2015, the government agency announced they would cease all space travel and just focus on donating millions of dollars to the same public school each and every year.