Top 5 Historical NASA Videos
Phillip Keane posted on August 18, 2017 |
Our favorite videos from NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center.

NASA recently made hundreds of historical videos available on the YouTube channel for its Armstrong Flight Research Center and they're a great resource for educators, engineers and space geeks everywhere. Here are five of our favorites.

5. Apollo 15 Hammer and Feather Drop

In 1589, Galileo suggested that the rate at which an object falls is independent of its mass. On Earth, things fall at different rates due to their aerodynamic profile. For example, a feather has more drag than a hammer, so if these objects were dropped on Earth at the same time, the feather would fall more slowly than the hammer.

In 1971, Apollo 15 commander David Scott demonstrated this principle on the Moon, when he took a 1.32 kg hammer and a 30 g feather and dropped them both at the same time. Naturally, in the absence of any atmosphere or drag, both objects reached the Moon’s surface at the exact same time. If Galileo had been alive to see this with his own eyes, it might have truly blown his mind.

In your face, Aristotle!

4. Seven Minutes of Terror

Okay, so this isn’t really a live video or actual footage of space, but it’s a great example of science outreach done right. It’s got a catchy title, great visuals and the intense music helps the viewer to experience some of the feeling of trepidation that the engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory may have felt during the Curiosity rover’s EDL (entry, descent and landing) sequence.

Why was this mission historic? 

Simply put: scientists used a flying crane to land a nuclear rover on Mars! This video explains exactly how they did it.

3. Apollo 13’s Return

Dubbed NASA’s finest hour, there are lots of memorable audio and visual clips of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission—in fact, there was a 49-minute TV broadcast showing how comfortably the crew lived and worked in weightlessness just 9 minutes before oxygen tank number 2 exploded. Broadcasts were suspended after the explosion in order to preserve electrical power.

Meanwhile, on Earth, the entire world waited with baited breath for NASA to bring its astronauts home safely.

 Some three days later, the people of Earth got their wish. The entire planet breathed a huge sigh of relief when the crew returned, and you can hear the relief and excitement in the broadcaster’s voice as the stricken spacecraft makes its splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

2. The Challenger Incident

Not all of NASA’s videos will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. Sometimes human history can be pretty awful, but if an event is historically significant, it should never be overlooked. The Challenger disaster was one such event.  While there was only one American network (CNN) broadcasting the launch live at the time, pretty much everyone with a TV saw the footage afterward. Like the Kennedy assassination or 9/11, many people remember where they were when the Challenger exploded, which gives testament to the cultural and historical impact of the event.

1. Apollo 11 EVA

And the top spot, not surprisingly, goes to the Apollo 11 EVA. The footage isn’t exactly high-definition, but it's undoubtedly the most historically significant footage of the American space program. Indeed, it’s perhaps one of the most historically significant videos ever made. Humanity’s first steps onto another world. What’s not to love about that?

There you go. The top 5 historical videos of the American space program.

What’s your favorite moment from NASA's history? Let us know in the comments below.

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