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Great Scott, it’s Back to the Future Day – Oct. 21, 2015

Great Scott, it’s Back to the Future Day – Oct. 21, 2015

What would a time traveler from 1985 discover about   NASA today?

It’s Back to the Future Day, the date in the second film that Marty and Doc traveled to in the future. When they arrived in 2015, it looked much different than today’s reality. Although we may not have self-drying jackets or flying cars, we do have some amazing spacecraft and technologies that were not around back when the film was made.

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For example, in 1985 we did not have the capability to capture an image like this of our Earth. This full-Earth view captured Monday (10/19/15) by our camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVER, was not previously possible. The DSCOVR mission captures a daily sequence of images that show the Earth as it rotates, revealing the whole globe over the course of a day. These images will allow scientists to study daily variations over the entire globe in such features as vegetation, ozone, aerosols and cloud height and reflectivity.

So, we might not be cruising down the street on hover boards, but the movies didn’t get it all wrong in terms of how advanced we’d be in 2015.

When you were a kid, what technologies did you dream we’d have in the future that we may or may not have today? Here’s what two astronauts said:


NASA is much different than it was in 1985. Could we have dreamed these amazing accomplishments that have changed our world and understanding of the universe?

1. “There will be an orbiting laboratory where astronauts from around the world will live and work together.”

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When Back to the Future II was set, the International Space Station didn’t exist yet. The first piece of the space station was launched in 1998, and the first crew arrived in 2000. Since November 2000, the station has been continuously occupied by humans. 

2. “We will find planets orbiting in the habitable zone of a star, and possibly suited for life.“

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The first exoplanet, or planet orbiting around a star, was found in 1995. Since then, we’ve discovered around a dozen habitable zone planets in the Earth-size range. While we aren’t able to zoom in to these planets that are light-years away, we’re still closer to finding another Earth-like planet in 2015 than we were in 1985. 

3. “Mars will become more populated.”

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No, not by humans…yet. But, since the release of Back to the Future II, Mars has become a bit more populated with rovers and orbiters. These scientific spacecraft have played an important role in learning about the Red Planet. We currently have six missions at Mars. With the most recent news of liquid water on the surface of Mars, we can look forward to future missions returning even more data and images. The historical log of all Mars missions, both domestic and international can be found HERE. 

4. “We will launch a telescope into orbit that’s capable of looking at locations more than 13.4 billion light years from Earth.”

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When Back to the Future II was released, our Hubble Space Telescope had not yet launched into orbit – something that wouldn’t happen until April 1990. Since then, Hubble has made more than 1.2 million observations, and has traveled more than 3 billion miles along a circular low Earth orbit. For updates on Hubble’s findings, check HERE.

For more information about the technology that we’re developing at NASA, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology

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