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4 Ridiculous Space Accidents (Where Everyone Survived)

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From wolves to lightning strikes, even the most well-planned space flights are often plagued by ridiculous accidents. Sometimes lots of them all in a row. And even more unbelievably, sometimes everyone involved lives.

1. Voskhod 2

In the 1960s the Soviets took a great leap forward in the space race when they sent Voskhod 2 into orbit with two cosmonauts aboard. One of them, pilot Alexey Leonov, became the first human to leave a spacecraft and perform a spacewalk. While an impressive feat, it came very close to disaster: the Soviets had failed to account for the effect of the vacuum of space on Leonov’s spacesuit.

After 12 minutes outside the craft, the cosmonaut found that he could not bend his suit sufficiently to return through the hatch. Soviet television had to cut away because they feared the worst. By opening a valve in the suit, he was able to reduce the pressure enough to get back in. Once inside, Leonov and his co-pilot could barely get the hatch closed. At the time, reports never indicated that Leonov had any trouble during his spacewalk, but the cosmonaut later revealed that his 12-minute ordeal left him up to his knees in sweat—it filled the legs of his spacesuit. And had the spacewalk gone any more awry, Leonov had a suicide pill handy.

After Leonov and Belyayev were safely inside, they found that there was so little room in the capsule that they couldn’t actually get back in their seats, throwing off Voskhod’s center of gravity. On reentry, they ended up hundreds of miles off-course. The men were forced to spend a night in the woods of Siberia, and while the door had been blown off on impact, they were at least heavily armed to protect themselves from wolves and bears. Although helicopters located the cosmonauts, the woods were too thick to land and the two were not rescued until the next day.

2. Apollo 12

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They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but the crew of Apollo 12 would beg to differ. Only a few months after the first moon landing, astronauts Pete Conrad, Alan Bean and Dick Gordon were on their way to repeat the feat when they were struck by lightning during launch ... twice in less than 20 seconds. Numerous systems failed and the astronauts spent a long five minutes waiting to see if they would come back on. After orbiting Earth a few extra times, it was determined nothing too important had been broken and they continued on to a successful moon mission.

While Apollo 12’s moon landing went well, the way back home was a little crazy. Alan Bean discovered that returning to gravity presented its own problems: as their command module splashed down in the ocean, a 16mm camera flew out of storage and bounced around the capsule, hitting Bean in the forehead, rendering him unconscious and resulting in a concussion and six stitches.

3. Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

Astronauts train hundreds of times for their missions, learning the procedures necessary by heart. But to err is human, they say, and there were three humans in the Apollo craft reentering the atmosphere when things started to go downhill.

It was 1975, and the first joint U.S.-Soviet space flight was completed successfully. NASA's men were on their way back to Earth, but it wasn't all smooth sailing. Someone forgot to flip a single switch to the correct position in the reaction control center. Suddenly poisonous nitrogen tetroxide gas was filling the command module. Astronaut Vance Brand momentarily fell unconscious before another managed to hand out gas masks to the crew. To top it all off, one of the bags in the nosecone — designed to inflate and hold the capsule upright in the water — failed, leaving the capsule suspended upside-down in the ocean after splashdown.

Crewmember Donald "Deke" Slayton reported in his biography that the levels of nitrogen tetroxide were high enough to kill the crew, but in the end, despite the danger, all three recovered after spending a few weeks in the hospital.

4. Progress M-34/Mir Docking

Traffic accidents are pretty common here on the ground, but vehicles occasionally have fender-benders in space, too. In 1997, astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the Mir space station were docking with their unmanned supply craft, Progress M-34. Rather than docking automatically, the crew members were practicing with manual controls in an attempt to reduce future resupply mission costs.

Unfortunately, they needed more practice.

Instead of docking smoothly, Progress slammed into the solar array on the side of the Spektr module, punching a hole in the panel and creating a breach in the module's airtight seal. Crewmembers felt their ears pop and heard hissing as the module lost cabin pressure. The three crew members inside were able to escape before the module depressurized too far.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
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"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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