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Canadian Space Agency

22 Space Agencies that Aren't NASA

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Canadian Space Agency

Sure, everyone knows NASA. They used to send people into space, inspiring millions and performing the kind of scientific exploration that just isn’t possible with long-range remote controlled cars. But after fifty years of increasingly crippling budget cuts imposed by shortsighted, petty bureaucrats, they’ve become the outfit that runs a couple of really neat museums. Thankfully, not all of humanity’s eggs are in one lunar module. Here are 22 space agencies that aren’t NASA.

1. Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, France

France established its space program in 1961. Everything but the CNES’s launches are handled at Toulouse Space Centre. Its spaceport is Centre Spatial Guyanais, located in French Guiana. I could write about France’s contribution to the International Space Station, or its astronauts and satellites, but let’s get to the good stuff: CNES is the only space program in the world with an acknowledged UFO investigation agency. The irony here is that if Independence Day ever became a reality, Bill Pullman would have to give his rousing speech on July 14th—Bastille Day.

2. Lithuanian Space Association

Over the years, hundreds of Lithuanian scientists and engineers have worked with NASA. The first Lithuanian cosmonaut was Aleksey Yeliseyev-Kuraitis, who was part of the 1969 Soyuz mission. Rimantas Stankevičius, another famous Lithuanian cosmonaut, died in Italy in the Salgareda Air Show. He went out a hero. While flying a Su-27 fighter, a loop went wrong and the aircraft went down. He could have bailed, but the plane would have crashed into a crowd of onlookers. Instead, he spent his last moments veering the plane toward relative safety.

3. Space Research and Remote Sensing Organization, Bangladesh

Places you are not likely to find someone from Bangladesh: Space. That said, the country has a capable space research program that has participated in the Landsat program, and works with foreign space agencies to survey its own natural resources and local ecosystem.

4. Sri Lanka Space Agency

In 2015, Sri Lanka will launch a geostationary communications satellite from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. This is the country’s first foray into space, and will mark the culmination of long ambitions for a space program. Its partnership with China is worth noting; China has spent quite some time helping smaller, poorer nations develop their own space programs, using “space diplomacy” as a means of making strategic inroads into South Asia.

5. The Hungarian Space Office

The Hungarian Space Office was founded in 1992 and is part of Hungary’s Ministry of National Development. The general operation of Hungarian space program works something like this: Dr. Előd Both is the HSO’s director, and actually runs the program. He reports to Zsuzsa Németh, the Minister of National Development, who is in turn advised by the Scientific Council on Space Research. The Hungarian Space Board works with the ministry in “strategic cases,” which pretty much means spy satellites and missile defense.

6. Israel Space Agency

The Israel Space Agency was founded in 1983 to organize and implement a space program. The agency found great success, and presently has a robust satellite launch capability. (Israel is the smallest country in the world with its own spaceport.) The first Israeli astronaut was Ilan Ramon, who died tragically on the Space Shuttle Columbia.

7. TÜBİTAK Space Technologies Research Institute, Turkey

TÜBİTAK Space Technologies Research Institute started out in 1985 as Ankara Electronics Research and Development Institute, and was part of Middle East Technical University. The agency is serious business—it has put a couple of reconnaissance satellites in space. It was recently announced that Turkey plans to construct a spaceport in its territory.

8. United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

UNOOSA, which sounds like a Linux distribution, is the United Nations agency that maintains the registry of objects launched into outer space. That’s a pretty big deal because there’s a lot of stuff up there, and the last thing anyone wants to do is to live out Clint Eastwood’s underrated 2000 film, Space Cowboys. The downside of UNOOSA is that it’s totally against any country building a Death Star, or laying territorial claim to the Moon. (What’s worse: The Moon Treaty or the Khitomer Accords? Discuss.)

9. National Remote Sensing Center, Mongolia

Mongolia has a space program? Yep! The National Remote Sensing Center is Mongolia’s agency to coordinate remote sensing applications with foreign space programs. The big deal about sensors (this also applies to Bangladesh, for example) is that they help governments map their territory and monitor their natural hazards. Things like wildfires and snow cover need good, accurate eye-in-the-sky imagery and long-term studies with data sets of the highest quality.

10. Institute for Astronomy, Astrophysics, Space Applications & Remote Sensing, Greece

The Institute for Astronomy, Astrophysics, Space Applications & Remote Sensing, in addition to being the best space program to help me meet this article’s word count, is Greece’s space agency for doing all of those things in its name. It is part of the National Observatory of Athens, and is primarily a research institute.

11. Belarus Space Agency

The Belarus Space Agency is mostly interested in sensory applications and satellites, and has plans to build a flight control center next year. Belarus has fielded two astronauts: Pyotr Klimuk and Vladimir Kovalyonok.

12. Canadian Space Agency

Three words: Commander Chris Hadfield.[drops the mic and walks away]

13. UK Space Agency

The UK Space Agency was established in 2010 to unify the various research and spacefaring organizations of the United Kingdom. Satellites, research, probes, droids—the usual. Presently, the UKSA is working on establishing a spaceport and space tourism capabilities.

14. China National Space Administration

Now, I’m not saying that China is the future of human space travel, but go ahead and click here to check out their logo. Look familiar? While America is busy investing time and resources into Toddlers & Tiaras, China has built a massive space infrastructure, put men in orbit, mounted a spacewalk, launched a space station, and planned a manned lunar mission with the intention of establishing a base on the moon. Oh, and the moon thing? It’s to prepare them for a Mars expedition.

15. Azerbaijan National Aerospace Agency

The Azerbaijan National Aerospace Agency was founded in 1975. Like most space programs, sensing technology is a primary mission, and it has made great strides in remote analysis and, according to its website, “the study of spectrometric, meteorological and radiation characters of different natural territorial and industrial objects.”

16. Brazilian Space Agency

The Brazilian Space Agency operates both a spaceport and a rocket launch site, which makes it a key player in South American space affairs. The agency launched its first rocket in 2004. Two years later, the first Brazilian astronaut, Marcos Pontes, served on the International Space Station.

17. Croatian Space Agency

Croatia has serious space ambitions. In 2007, it hosted a summit of space travelers, “to inspire the next generation of scientists in Europe and Croatia, and to chart the future role of smaller countries in human spaceflight.” While no Croatian has yet been to space, it is home to the Zagreb Astronomical Observatory. As a prospective member of the European Union, there has been discussion of Croatia eventually joining the European Space Agency.

18. European Space Agency

Twenty member states of Europe comprise the European Space Agency, and each contributes science, research, technology, manpower, and money. (France, for example, brings the Centre Spatial Guyanais spaceport to the table; Italy is responsible for the Vega payload launcher.) The ESA has an astronaut corps of 22, its roster almost indistinguishable from the character names and nationalities of the characters in Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six.

19. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (独立行政法人宇宙航空研究開発機構)

In 2005, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency unmanned spacecraft called the Peregrine Falcon landed on 25143 Itokawa, a near-Earth asteroid. It took samples and then returned to Earth. Look, even though we don’t have flying cars, things like that make me think we really are living in the future. JAXA developed solar sails and successfully deployed them in 2010. The current plan is to sail to Jupiter. Remember how I mentioned that China’s working on building a moon colony? Well, so is Japan! That’s impressive, but they’re probably jealous of the sweet museums we made out of our space shuttles.

20. State Space Agency of Ukraine

As any fan of Seinfeld can attest, “you not say Ukraine is weak!” Its space program is focused on research, remote sensing, and telecommunications satellites. In 1997, Leonid K. Kadenyuk became the first and only astronaut to fly into space under the independent Ukranian flag. He served on NASA's STS-87 Space Shuttle mission.

21. National Space Agency, Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s National Space Agency focuses on two key areas: monitoring the atmosphere and environment of the Earth from space, and researching space-based materials science. The first Kazakh cosmonaut was Tokhtar Aubakirov. He later became director of the National Space Agency.

22. Korean Committee of Space Technology, North Korea

In 2012, North Korea put the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2 observation satellite into orbit—the first such successful launch by North Korea. The general suspicion going into the mission was that it was a test run of a long-range ballistic missile. The North Korean government dismissed such suspicions as lies being told by Western Imperialists. The North Koreans didn’t really help themselves, however, when they proceeded to release a statement which read in part: “We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets, which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action, a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century, will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people.”

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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images
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5 Killer Pieces of Rock History Up for Auction Now (Including Prince’s Guitar)
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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images

If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of rock history, now is the time. A whole host of cool music memorabilia from the 20th century is going up for sale through Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles as part of its “Icons and Idols” sale. If you’ve got the dough, you can nab everything from leather chairs from Graceland to a shirt worn by Jimi Hendrix to never-before-available prints that Joni Mitchell signed and gave to her friends. Here are five highlights from the auction:

1. ELVIS’S NUNCHUCKS

Elvis’s nunchucks
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Elvis’s karate skills sometimes get a bad rap, but the King earned his first black belt in 1960, and went on to become a seventh-degree black belt before opening his own studio in 1974. You can cherish a piece of his martial arts legacy in the form of his nunchaku. One was broken during his training, but the other is still in ready-to-use shape. (But please don’t use it.) It seems Elvis wasn’t super convinced of his own karate skills, though, because he also supposedly carried a police baton (which you can also buy) for his personal protection.

2. PRINCE’S GUITAR

A blue guitar used by Prince
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Prince’s blue Cloud guitar, estimated to be worth between $60,000 and $80,000, appeared on stage with him in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The custom guitar was made just for Prince by Cloud’s luthier (as in, guitar maker) Andy Beech. The artist first sold it at a 1994 auction to benefit relief efforts for the L.A. area’s devastating Northridge earthquake.

3. KURT COBAIN’S CHEERLEADER OUTFIT

Kurt Cobain wearing a cheerleader outfit in the pages of Rolling Stone
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

The Nirvana frontman wore the bright-yellow cheerleader’s uniform from his alma mater, J.M. Weatherwax High School in Aberdeen, Washington, during a photo shoot for a January 1994 issue of Rolling Stone, released just a few months before his death.

4. MICHAEL JACKSON’S WHITE GLOVE

A white glove covered in rhinestones
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

A young Michael Jackson wore this bejeweled right-hand glove on his 1981 Triumph Tour, one of the first of many single gloves he would don over the course of his career. Unlike later incarnations, this one isn’t a custom-made glove with hand-sewn crystals, but a regular glove topped with a layer of rhinestones cut into the shape of the glove and sewn on top.

The auction house is also selling a pair of jeans the star wore to his 2003 birthday party, as well as other clothes he wore for music videos and performances.

5. WOOD FROM ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS

A piece of wood in a frame under a picture of The Beatles
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

You can’t walk the halls of Abbey Road Studios, but you can pretend. First sold in 1986, the piece of wood in this frame reportedly came from Studio Two, a recording space that hosted not only The Beatles (pictured), but Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and others.

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Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0
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5 Dubious Historical Antidotes for Poison (and What Actually Works)
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An artificial bezoar stone from Goa, India
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

When it comes to their health, humans will believe just about anything. In this extract from the new book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, authors Lydia Kang, MD, and Nate Pedersen discuss some of the more questionable ways people once tried to protect themselves from poison—whether or not the methods actually worked.

Poison is everywhere. Naturally or unnaturally, it can be in the soil (arsenic), in the air (carbon monoxide), in your drinks (lead), and in your food (cyanide). With so much danger around, it’s no wonder humans have obsessed over finding a universal antidote—the one thing that could save us from all toxins. Imagine you’re a medieval prince about to inherit the throne. Chances are, there are a lot of power-hungry wannabes waiting in the wings. A little arsenic or hemlock might be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Just in case, best have an antidote on standby.

For millennia, a certain amount of magical thinking was employed when arming oneself against poison because science was inconveniently slow to catch up. So grab your handy unicorn horn and a bezoar, and let’s take a look.

1. BEZOARS

Bezoars have been used for centuries as antidotes to poisons. A bezoar is solid mass of undigested food, plant fibers, or hair found in the digestive tracts of animals, including deer, porcupines, fish, and, yes, humans. Anyone with a cat is familiar with the less-cool feline version: hairballs.

Bezoars and other stone-like items created by animals often had a good story behind them. Legends told of deer that would eat poisonous snakes and become immune or cry tears that solidified into poison-curing stones. First-century Arabic author al-Birumi claimed bezoars could protect against one poison called “the snot of Satan,” which we hope never ever to encounter. By the 12th century, when Europe became plagued with, uh, plagues, the bezoar crept into pharmacopeias as panaceas and alexipharmics (poison antidotes).

Bezoars were a seductive notion for the rich and royal, who were at risk of assassination. The stones were often enclosed in bejeweled gold for display or worn as amulets. Indian bezoars, in particular, were sought for life-threatening fevers, poisonous bites, bleeding, jaundice, and melancholy. Consumers were also known to scrape off a bit of bezoar and add it to their drinks for heart health and kidney stones. These tonics were sometimes adulterated with toxic mercury or antimony, which caused vomiting and diarrhea, making buyers think they were effective.

But were they? One team of researchers soaked bezoars in an arsenic-laced solution and found that the stones absorbed the arsenic or that the poison was neutralized. Hard to say if it worked well enough to cure a fatal dose. Ambroise Paré, one of the preeminent French physicians of the 16th century, was also a doubter. The king’s cook, who’d been stealing silver, was given the choice between hanging or being Paré’s lab rat. He chose the latter. After the cook consumed poison, Paré looked on as a bezoar was stuffed down his throat. Six hours later, he died wracked with pain. Perhaps he chose ... poorly?

2. MITHRIDATES

This antidote was named after Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus and Armenia Minor. Born in 134 BCE, he pretty much invented the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by consuming poisons daily to prevent his own assassination. His royal home was stocked with stingray spines, toxic mushrooms, scorpions, mineral poisons, and a poisonous plant–filled garden. He was so unpoisonable that after his son took over his kingdom and he faced execution, he couldn’t even commit suicide by poison! He begged a guard to stab him to death. (It worked.)

Though the king’s actual recipe for the antidote is nowhere to be found, versions began to circulate after his death, and they became synonymous with the king himself. Compounds with lengthy and expensive ingredient lists prevailed, including iris, cardamom, anise, frankincense, myrrh, ginger, and saffron. In the first century, Pliny the Elder snarkily remarked, “The Mithridatic antidote is composed of fifty-four ingredients ... Which of the gods, in the name of Truth, fixed these absurd proportions? ... It is plainly a showy parade of the art, and a colossal boast of science.”

Showy or not, people would take the extensive mix of herbs, pound them together with honey, and eat a nut-sized portion to cure themselves. At least it endowed them with expensive-smelling breath.

3. HORNS

An apothecary shop sign in the shape of a unicorn
An ivory pharmacy sign in the shape of a unicorn's head
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Unicorn horns have been considered a part of antidote legend since the mythical beast galloped into literature around 300 BCE. For centuries afterward, real earthly beasts would sacrifice their lives and their horns to slake our thirst for the miraculous, nonexistent animal, including rhinoceroses, narwhals, and oryx. Even fossilized ammonites were used. It was believed that drinking vessels made of such horns might neutralize poisons, and wounds could be cured by holding them close by. In the 16th century, Mary, Queen of Scots reportedly used a unicorn horn to protect her from poisoning. Too bad it didn’t prevent her beheading.

4. PEARLS

Pearls have long been thought to be powerful antidotes. A beautiful, rare gem created by the homely oyster, a pearl is born out of annoyance (the mollusk secretes iridescent nacre to cover an irritant, like a parasite or grain of sand). Pretty as they are, they’re about as useful as the chalky antacid tablets on your bedside table; both are chiefly made of calcium carbonate. Good for a stomachache after some spicy food, but not exactly miraculous.

Pearl powder has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases, and Ayurvedic physicians used it as an antidote in the Middle Ages. It was also reported to make people immortal. An old Taoist recipe recommended taking a long pearl and soaking it in malt, “serpent’s gall,” honeycomb, and pumice stone. When softened, it would be pulled like taffy and cut into bite-sized pieces to eat, and voilà! You would suddenly no longer need food to stay alive. Cleopatra famously drank down a large and costly pearl dissolved in wine vinegar, though in that case she wasn’t avoiding poison. She didn’t want to lose a bet with Antony—which might have fatally injured her pride.

5. THERIAC

Albarello vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
A vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Theriac was an herbal concoction created in the first century by Emperor Nero’s physician, Andromachus, who was reported to have Mithridates’s secret notes. It was a mashed formula of about 70 ingredients, including cinnamon, opium, rose, iris, lavender, and acacia in a honey base. In the 12th century, theriac made in Venice was branded as particularly special, and Venetian treacle (derived from a Middle English translation of theriac) became a hot commodity. Its public, dramatic production often attracted curious crowds.

By the 18th century, cheaper golden syrup was substituted for honey. As treacle began to lose its luster as a treatment, its definition as an herbal remedy disappeared from common vernacular. But the sweet syrup remained. Which is why when we think of treacle, we think of treacle tarts, not a fancy means of saving ourselves from a deathly poisoning.

BONUS: WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS

Thankfully, science has brought us a wide range of antidotes for many items we shouldn’t be exposed to in dangerous quantities, if at all. N-acetylcysteine, fondly referred to as NAC by doctors, saves us from acetaminophen overdoses. Ethanol can treat antifreeze poisoning. Atropine, ironically one of the main components of plants in the toxic nightshade family (such as mandrake), can treat poisoning from some dangerous fertilizers and chemical nerve agents used as weapons. For years, poisonings were treated with emetics, though it turns out that plain old carbon—in the form of activated charcoal—can adsorb poisons (the poisons stick to the surface of the charcoal) in the digestive system before they’re dissolved and digested by the body.

As long as the natural world and its humans keep making things to kill us off, we’ll keep developing methods to not die untimely deaths.

We’ll just leave the fancy hairballs off the list.

The cover of the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
Workman Publishing

Excerpt from Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang, MD and Nate Pedersen/Workman Publishing. Used with permission.

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