Ridiculous History: 5 of NASA's Greatest Pranks


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Crossing Paths With Old St. Nick
When Gemini 6A rendevoused with Gemini 7, astronauts Walter 'Wally' Schirra and pilot Tom Stafford radioed mission control about a mysterious UFO. NASA

On Dec. 15, 1965, NASA's Gemini 6A met up with Gemini 7 some 160 miles (257 kilometers) above Earth's surface for the first manned, inter-ship rendezvous in the history of space travel. The late Walter "Wally" Schirra had command of Gemini 6A, whose only other crew member was pilot Tom Stafford. After the spaceships drifted apart, a dose of holiday cheer suddenly broke out. Early in the morning of Dec. 16, Schirra contacted mission control and Gemini 7. With a quiver of urgency in his voice, he claimed to see an unidentified flying object. "Looks like a satellite, going from north to south, probably in polar orbit," Schirra reported. "Looks like he might be going to re-enter soon."

In Schirra's next message, the UFO as he described it began to take shape — specifically, the shape of Kris Kringle and his reindeer. "I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit," Schirra said. Then, he and Stafford broke out a harmonica and some sleigh bells they'd taken along for the ride. Together, they treated their friends in Houston (plus the ones on Gemini 7) to a rendition of the classic carol "Jingle Bells."

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