“Who Would Believe NASA Used Whale Oil on Voyager and Hubble?” in Knight Science Journalism

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March 5, 2014 - Philadelphia, PA

Excerpted from an article by Faye Flam

Maybe it’s just me, but if a source told me that NASA used whale oil to lubricate parts of the Hubble, or if I read such a statement in a book, I’d want some sort of documentation—some hard evidence.

Right off the bat, the claim raises some questions: Does NASA employ a secret whaling ship, or does the stuff stay fresh long enough that they can use a supply left over from the days of Moby Dick?

I first heard about this incredible rumor in the most recent issue of the Chemical Heritage Foundation Magazine. In an enlightening piece called Whales in Space, an intern, Jacob Roberts, examines and debunks the rumor. According to Roberts, the whale story raised some eyebrows in 2010 when it was repeated on The History Channel. The show, America: The Story of Us included the claim that, “Even today, whale oil is used by NASA. The Hubble Space Telescope runs on it.” Read More.

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