What has NASA done for you?

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 WTF​NASA​.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 wtf​nasa​.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.