Northeastern University

What has NASA done for you?

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The space shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center on its final mission. Photo via Flickr.

What has NASA done to make your life awesome? Let’s see….

  • Google Earth
  • Ear thermometer
  • Built the first inflatable antennas to support emergency communication
  • Developed lifesaving heart pump for patients awaiting heart transplants
  • Developed and validated all-electric flight control systems now used on nearly all modern aircraft

These are just a smattering of the advances that NASA has brought to the general public in the last 54 years since it was established. Jacob Mulligan BA ’15, who launched the site WTFNASA.com on Friday afternoon during his lunch break, currently has 90 NASA spinoff facts on the new website which aims to increase awareness and appreciation for the government agency.

“About two weeks ago twitter and various blogs were using the hashtag #WTFNASA against NASA,” said Mulligan, who grew up near Cape Canaveral and is a self-proclaimed space-junkie. “They were annoyed that NASA was spending so much money. I thought they didn’t understand where the money was going or how it benefited them. So I bought the domain.”

He sat on it for a week or two before building the website, he said, and then, the Wednesday after the rover landed, he began designing. While perhaps not entirely intentional, this timing has been incredibly fortuitous for Mulligan, whose site had over a million hits within five days of its launch.

Yesterday afternoon Mulligan spoke with a social marketing consultant for NASA who said that wtfnasa.com has accomplished in a weekend what he has been attempting to do for several years. “If NASA had built this,” Mulligan speculated, “it wouldn’t have been the same. Because someone from NASA wasn’t behind it, I think it felt a little more authentic to people.” Also, WTF NASA might just be a little too controversial for a government agency. And it’s that very edginess, Mulligan said, that gets people interested.

The whole experience has been a whirlwind for him. He’s received hundreds of emails from people all around the world sending him thank yous and even new NASA facts to include on the site. One woman wrote to tell him that her grandmother benefited from NASA’s work in alternative health solutions to bone density loss.

“All this R&D that astronauts have benefited from also has applications on earth,” he said. From improved aircraft fuel efficiency to the CO2 scrubbing technology that enables your Brita water filter, the nearly 800 billion tax dollars spent on NASA over the years has done more than play around in space.

Two weeks ago #WTFNASA was trending on Twitter with negative talk about one of the nation’s most pervasive and successful government agencies. Today it’s trending with Mulligan’s website.


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