Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Space Doubt

In the days before microwave ovens made it possible for us to nuculate Hot Pockets and Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sandwiches at work for lunch, lunch choices were limited to whatever one could stuff in a brown bag.

And it was even worse for astronauts! Floating around in space in a multi-million dollar space capsule, those brave men couldn't very well pack cheese and crackers for lunch. There were very delicate electronic parts aboard, and crumbs hanging in the air in a weightless environment could very well get in the works and jam things up.

If you remember Space Food Sticks, that was Pillsbury's idea, bringing to American pockets, lunch pails and vending machines the tubular Astronaut food with the consistency of a Tootsie Roll and the taste of tree bark and sawdust. But food for grinding on in a space ship had to be crumb-free and molded into blocks or tubes. All other food was strictly not A-OK, in NASA parlance.

John Young was the pilot of the Apollo III mission in March, 1965. Later, he became the ninth man to walk on the moon (1972) but first, he became the first man to smuggle a corned beef sandwich aboard a NASA mission. As Apollo III hurtled spaceward, he reached into the pocket of his spacesuit and pulled out a corned-beef-on-rye-with-mustard and began to chomp away.

It turned out that another astronaut with a penchant for practical gaggery, Wally Schirra, had slipped off to a deli in Cocoa Beach FL, brought the sammy to Young, and sat back to enjoy the hijinx.

We can say that this was not the worst thing that ever happened in the state of Florida or in the province of American space travel. No beef or rye molecules ruined any onboard equipment, although the next guy to take that spaceship for a ride did complain that there was mustard all over the steering wheel.

And the bigshots at NASA had to do some fancy scrambling when, at the next Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to determine how much more of our tax money would be wasted spent on flying around like William Shatner, Sen. George E. Shipley blasted NASA: “My thought is that after you spend a great deal of money and time, to have one of the astronauts slip a sandwich aboard this vehicle, frankly, is just a little disgusting.”

To end the suspense, they got their money anyway and Americans landed on the moon in July 1969.  

Or so you think.

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