A Congressional Hearing Was Called Because An Astronaut Snuck A Corned Beef Sandwich Into Space

Astronaut John Young on MoonJohn Young, astronaut and Navy veteran, salutes the U.S. flag at the Descartes landing site during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity (EVA-1). Young, commander of the Apollo 16 lunar landing mission, jumps up from the lunar surface as astronaut and Air Force veteran, Charles M. Duke Jr., lunar module pilot, took this picture.

Photo: NASA, Charles M. Duke Jr.

When you gotta eat, you gotta eat I guess. Even if you are an astronaut. While aboard the Gemini 3 space mission in 1965, Astronaut John Young had a craving. For some corned beef. Luckily, he had snuck a sandwich onto the craft in case he got peckish during the five-hour mission.This little tidbit of space debauchery is just one of “Spaceflight’s Most Badass Maneuvers” a compilation of astronauts at their most badass by Adam Mann at Wired.com. From  Mann’s Wired article:

Young was apparently a little unhappy with the terrible-tasting space food that astronauts received. Once in orbit, Young pulled out a mysterious object he had snuck aboard, leading to this exchange with his co-pilot Gus Grissom:

Grissom: What is it?
Young: Corn beef sandwich
Grissom: Where did that come from?
Young: I brought it with me. Let’s see how it tastes. Smells, doesn’t it?

Young was nice enough to share his prize with Grissom, before Grissom placed the contraband sandwich in his pocket. Apparently, Young brought the sandwich because Grissom was a big fan of corned beef.

The sneaky space sandwiching was pulled off with the help of Deke Slayton, director of flight crew operations. On the Gemini 3 Wikipedia page Grissom is quoted as saying about the corned beef sandwich incident:

“After the flight our superiors at NASA let us know in no uncertain terms that non-man-rated corned beef sandwiches were out for future space missions. But John’s deadpan offer of this strictly non-regulation goodie remains one of the highlights of our flight for me.”

Check out the rest of Mann’s “Badass Space Maneuvers” over at Wired. 

What’s so bad about having a corned beef sandwich in space? They seemed to make it back home alright, so what’s the big deal?

Well, especially for something crumbly like rye bread and corned beef, the low gravity of space causes particles of food to float around in the cabin, and these particles can get into the machinery inside the space capsule.

Actually, in the transcript of the mission, Grissom says he’s putting the sandwich away because it was breaking up and floating around the cabin, the exact potential problem that makes corned beef sandwiches banned in space.

After the mission, a congressional hearing was called about the sneaky sandwich, and NASA’s deputy administrator George Mueller had to promise there would be no repeats of the apparently-tasty event.  

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