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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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Ranil Nanayakkara, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0
5 Terrifyingly Huge Spiders
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Poecilotheria rajaei
Ranil Nanayakkara, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Earlier this week, an Australian couple made the news when they were terrorized by a huge huntsman spider—which they named Aragog—that prevented them from BBQing. (They tried to use their cat to scare the spider away. It didn't work.) Aragog was about the size of a grown man's hand, and it's not the only giant spider out there. The massive spiders below can’t be dispatched by a shoe or a rolled-up newspaper. They're sure to give you nightmares—even if you're not an arachnophobe.


This species of tarantula, discovered in Northern Sri Lanka in 2013, has a leg span of 8 inches. That's roughly the size of your face! It’s part of an arboreal group called tiger spiders, which are indigenous to India and Sri Lanka. A dead male specimen of P. rajaei—which is distinguished from other tiger spiders by the markings on its legs and abdomen—was first presented to scientists in October 2009 by a local villager; a survey of the area revealed enough females and juveniles that scientists are confident they've found a new species. “They are quite rare,” Ranil Nanayakkara, co-founder of Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity Education and Research, told WIRED. “They prefer well-established old trees, but due to deforestation the number have dwindled and due to lack of suitable habitat they enter old buildings.” P. rajaei was named after a police officer who helped scientists navigate the area where it was found.


A Goliath bird-eating spider.
universoaracnido, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.5

Though Theraphosa blondi is called the Goliath Bird-eating spider, it doesn’t actually eat birds. Reportedly, it got its name when an explorer saw it eating a hummingbird, but like other tarantulas, its diet consists mainly of insects, frogs, and rodents. But we’ll forgive you if you’re not comforted by that fact. After all, this spider can have a leg span nearly a foot across—the size of a dinner plate—and weigh up to 6 ounces, making it the largest spider in the world by mass. Its fangs, up to an inch long, can break human skin. (Though venomous, its poison won't bring down a human.) Native to South America, the spider makes noise by rubbing the bristles on its legs together; the sound can be heard up to 15 feet away.


A Heteropoda maxima spider
Petra & Wilifried, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Yet another reason to avoid dark caverns: Discovered in a cave in Laos in 2011, the Giant Huntsman spider has a leg span of 12 inches. It’s just one of over 1000 species of Huntsman spider. These speedy arachnids can chase down their prey with ease and have legs that extend forward, like a crab’s.


These arachnids, of the genus Nephila, have a fearsome relative: the largest fossilized spider ever found is an ancestor. Females of this family of spiders, which are found around the world, can have leg spans up to 6 inches (the males are smaller). Though these Orb-Weavers typically eat large insects, in Australia, some of these spiders have been snapped eating snakes and birds that got caught in their strong, 5-foot-diameter webs.    


Sure, Phoneutria nigriventer's nearly 6-inch leg span is scary—but there's something else about this spider that makes it even more terrifying: its venom, a neurotoxin that can be fatal to humans. In fact, along with P. fera, this spider is the most toxic on Earth (thankfully, a good antivenom exists). Native to Central and South America, P. nigriventer is also called the Brazilian Wandering Spider, for its tendency to roam the forest at night, and the banana spider, both because it hides in banana plants during the day and sometimes stows away in shipments of the fruit. When threatened, the spider lifts its front two pairs of legs and sways side to side, as you can see in the video above.

This story originally appeared in 2013.

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20 of the Animal Kingdom's Most Surprising Friendships
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These interspecies friendships prove that anybody can get along if they really put their minds to it.


When Maggie Szpot adopted two rats, she was worried about how Ranj, the stray cat she brought home in 2008, would react. But she didn't need to worry about Ranj hunting Peanut and Mocha—in fact, Peanut became enamored with the cat, following him around, cuddling with him, licking his face, and eating food out of his bowl alongside him. The two remained besties until Peanut died in 2010.


Capybaras are known for being very, very chill around other animals. They're regularly spotted hanging out happily with birds perched on their backs, puppies snuggled next to them, and monkeys climbing on top of them. (There's a whole Tumblr devoted to these capybara friendships.) JoeJoe the Capybara, perhaps social media's most famous capybara, is regularly seen cuddling with puppies, swimming with ducklings, and rolling around with the baby chicks he shares a home with in Arizona.


Juniper is a rescued fox who made fast friends with Moose, the Australian Shepherd mix with whom she shares a home. The two sleep together, eat together, and groom each other. Their owner, Jessika, often comes into a room to find Juniper sitting on top of Moose's head as the dog patiently allows himself to be used as a couch.


A lot of high-strung racehorses have companion animals that keep them calm. Strong Impact, a thoroughbred that raced for eight years, found a loyal companion in Charlie, a pig. The pig chose Strong Impact out of all the other horses in the barn, going stall to stall until he found an equine companion with whom he could cohabitate. According to a New York Times story on their friendship, they act like an old married couple and hate to be separated. (Strong Impact retired from racing in 2015 and is now part of an adoption program for retired racehorses.)


Anthony the lion and Riley the coyote met when both were one month old, recently rescued by Keepers of the Wild, a sanctuary for rescued exotic animals in Arizona. They immediately took a liking to each other, and their love was captured in a PBS Nature episode called "Animal Odd Couples" playing, grooming each other, and standing watch over each other during naptime. (Their segment starts at about 9:45.) Riley accompanied Anthony when he left the sanctuary for surgeries for a birth defect because the animals experienced such intense separation anxiety that one wouldn't eat without the other present. Sadly, Anthony passed away several years ago, and Riley now lives with another coyote at the sanctuary, Dominic.


Simon the cow arrived at the WFFT Wildlife Rescue Center in Thailand in February 2016 after losing part of his hind leg. He was put in a temporary space in a field while he recovered from his injury, and was eventually supposed to join two other cows at the rescue in another enclosure. Instead, he formed an intense bond with the field's other resident, a giant tortoise named Leonardo that had been rescued when a Bangkok zoo closed in 2013. Simon nuzzles Leonardo, rests his head on his shell, and follows him around everywhere. They now live together permanently.


When J'aime came to the Rhino Orphanage in South Africa in March 2017, she was too young and small to be housed with her fellow rhinos. A few months later, though, she found a friend in Joey, a lamb who had been rejected by his mother and was brought to the sanctuary to be hand-raised. Joey was just a few days old at the time of their introduction, and he and J'aime quickly became best buds. They go for daily walks together and eat out of the same trough. Since May, they've also had another orphan in their little herd, a lamb named Penny.


When police made a drug raid on an Atlanta home 16 years ago, they made quite a discovery in the basement: one lion cub, one bear cub, and one tiger cub, which the drug dealer had been keeping as pets. The animals were in bad shape, but had formed a special bond. The trio was moved to the Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary in Georgia, where they were nursed back to health. Baloo's injuries were the most serious; he had to undergo surgery to remove a harness that was so tight his flesh had begun to grow around it. "During Baloo's surgery was the only time the three brothers have ever been separated from one another, and Shere Khan and Leo became extremely agitated because of it, pacing and vocalizing for the lost member of their family of three to return," the sanctuary's website says. Baloo made a full recovery and the trio remained inseparable until 2016, when Leo passed away from liver disease. Baloo and Shere Khan continue to romp around their three-acre sanctuary.


Brazilian biologist André Costa took in Forbi as a baby, and the owl became immediate friends with Cleo, Costa's cat (you can see a photo of little Forbi just hanging out on Cleo's side here). And they're still best buds!


Both Bea and Wilma were born and raised in the 65-acre Serengeti Plain exhibit at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida. Assistant curator Jason Green told People that the duo "seem to enjoy spending time together. Bea likes to use her tongue to explore her surroundings, and Wilma isn't fazed by those very close encounters."


Themba became an orphan at 6 months old when his mother died after falling down a cliff. The baby elephant was rescued by a team at Shamwari Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa, who put him in an enclosure with a sheep named Albert. "All hell broke loose," filmmaker Lyndal Davies told the Daily Mail in 2008. "Themba made a dash for the sheep and chased him around his watering hole." By the next morning, though, "Albert was clearly bored and started venturing out into the main enclosure. Themba wouldn't leave Albert's side and the two were seen exploring their enclosure together, with Themba's trunk resting on Albert's back. Ever since that moment Themba and Albert have been inseparable." According to wildlife director Johan Joubert, "Albert copies everything Themba does. In fact, they have almost the exact same diet. Albert is the first sheep I have ever seen eat a thorny acacia bush." You can watch a documentary about the pair above. Sadly, while the team at the center hoped to eventually introduce Themba back into the wild, the elephant died suddenly in 2010.


Mubi, an endangered drill monkey, was born at the Port Lympne Animal Park near Canterbury, Kent, but she was quickly rejected by her mother. So zookeeper Simon Jeffrey decided to hand-rear her. "During the day I take her to work and the team look after her at the enclosure where she can see her parents," he told the Daily Mail. "When I’ve finished working in the reserve, she comes home with me." There, she spends her time playing with two Jack Russell puppies, Iain and Daisey.


Cathryn Hilker, founder of the Cincinnati Zoo's Cat Ambassador Program, adopted the cheetah and the Anatolian Shepherd puppy when they were both two months old and raised them together. "They literally moved into my house and bonded with my rugs, my furniture, and each other," Hilker told Good Morning America. For a number of years, the pair toured schools in America raising awareness for the precarious position of the wild cheetah population. They even lived together at the zoo until 2010, when Alexa retired and went to live with a trainer.


In 1999, a tiny stray kitten appeared in Wally and Ann Collito's yard in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. The Collitos began feeding the kitten, but they weren’t the only ones: A crow also helped take care of the kitty, feeding her worms and bugs and protecting her from other animals. Eventually, the Collitos were able to coax Cassie inside, but the cat's incredible friendship with the crow didn't end there. The crow—whom they had named Moses—would peck at the door for Cassie every morning, and they'd spend the day hanging around together. The Collitos shot video and took photos of the two canoodling because they knew no one would believe them otherwise. This routine lasted for five years, until Moses stopped showing up, presumably because he had died.


When the waves of the devastating 2004 tsunami struck the coast of Kenya, a baby hippo was separated from his herd and became stranded on a coral reef. The next day, the hippo was rescued by the residents of the village of Malindi with fishing nets and taken to Haller Park Sanctuary, where the 660-pound animal—now named Owen—cozied up to a 130-year-old Aldabra tortoise named Mzee (maybe because the tortoise’s shape and color resembled an adult hippo). At first, the tortoise wasn't interested in this friendship, but eventually, they became inseparable, eating, wallowing in a pond, and even sleeping together. They lived in the same enclosure until 2007, when Mzee was removed from the enclosure because of safety concerns; Owen has since bonded with a female hippo named Cleo.


Enjoy this video of Sabre, an 11-year-old miniature horse, hanging out with his friend Arrow, a 2.5-year-old Harlequin Great Dane, on a twin mattress.


Though these two animals would normally be fierce competitors in the wild, at the Pet Porpoise Pool Marine Park in Coffs Harbour, Australia, they're the best of friends. Jet and Miri met as babies, and according to pool specialist Amy Carter, "They struck up a friendship really early on as they are the youngest. If Jet sees Miri going past he sticks his head out of the pool to say 'hi' and they make noises to each other."


In 2008, Isobel Springett rescued a fawn that had been abandoned by its mother in her yard, placing the tiny animal in the dog bed with her Great Dane, Kate. "She tucked her head under the dog's elbow," Springett told People. "Her whole demeanor changed. I knew she was a good dog, but I didn't expect her to mother the fawn." Though the deer eventually returned to the wild, she still visits, now with her own fawns. And though her babies won't get close, Pippin still comes in for a nose rub, which Kate returns. "There's a strong connection," Springett says, "but they have no idea it's a weird one."


Get your tissues out for this one: For eight years, Tarra was best buds with Bella, a mutt who had wandered onto the grounds of Tennessee's Elephant Sanctuary. They had such a strong bond that Bella would let the elephant stroke her on her stomach with her foot, and when Bella had a spinal injury that confined her to the sanctuary office, Tarra "just stood outside the balcony—just stood there and waited," sanctuary co-founder Carol Buckley told CBS. "She was concerned about her friend. ... Bella knows she's not an elephant. Tarra knows she's not a dog. But that's not a problem for them."

But in 2011, Bella was found dead, probably of a coyote attack. "When I looked around and saw there was no signs of an attack here. No blood, no tuffs of hair, nothing," director of elephant husbandry, Steve Smith, told CBS. "And Tarra, on the underside of her trunk, had blood—as if she picked up the body. Tarra moved her."


Fishermen in Lake Van, Turkey, spotted this wild cat and a fox playing, snuggling, and sharing fish together—and they've been at it for more than a year!

This story originally ran in 2014.


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