The Wackiest Moments In Space
Space truly is the final frontier. We all assume our brave astronauts are always hard at work, but how much do we actually know about what happens up there? Amid the monotonous experiments and the endless maintenance some amazing, scary, and extremely goofy things have happened.
These out-of-this-world events really happened, and they are just the ones we know about!
In Space, Corned Beef Can Kill You
In 1965, aboard NASA’s first two-man space mission, Gemini 3, astronauts John Young and Gus Grissom attempted the first-ever space brunch. The mid-flight snack of corned beef on rye turned dangerous as Grissom took his first bite and crumbs went everywhere. On Earth, crumbs would not be a concern but in the weightless environment of space, they could interrupt an electrical circuit or gum up an instrument panel.
The brunch was a failure and all future space meals would consist of bite-sized portions coated in gelatin. At least the corned beef sandwich was, in the words of John Young, “pretty good if, it would just hold together”.
Ground Control To Colonel Hadfield
It was a slow day aboard the International Space Station when Colonel Chris Hadfield decided to grab the community guitar, because they have those in space, and record one of the most beautiful music videos of all time. The song he so appropriately chose was the classic song “Space Oddity” by the legendary David Bowie.
The video went viral on YouTube to the tune of about 27 million views. Since then David Bowie has sadly passed away. A grateful Colonel Hadfield offered these parting words on Twitter: “Ashes to ashes, dust to stardust. Your brilliance inspired us all. Goodbye, Starman.”
The Space Twin Experiment
The only thing that sets the Kelly Brothers, Mark and Scott, apart from other twins is that Scott happens to be an astronaut and Mark happens to be a former astronaut. Shortly before Scott embarked on a year-long flight in the ISS someone at NASA noticed an opportunity and set up a little experiment. Using a series of mental and physical exams NASA would discover if Scott, flying about in the International Space Station, changed in ways that his Earth-bound brother did not.
We still have until March of 2017 before any results are released, but if comic books have taught us anything one of them will have super powers.
A UFO That Looks Like the ‘Millennium Falcon’
In April 2016 Jadon Beeson was watching a live stream from a camera on the International Space Station. The young man was baffled when he noticed what appeared to be a large metal object in the distance. The object was described by Jadon as similar to the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars films.
The “craft” seemed to rise up and move rapidly away from the space station, possibly off to its next stop on the Kessel run. Jadon grabbed a screenshot of the object and sent it to NASA requesting an explanation. One can only assume they are consulting with George Lucas before providing a response.
Video Games in Space
What do you need when you’re speeding across the sky in a tin can with only a thin layer of metal protecting you from the vast nothingness of space? More excitement! While describing the possible applications of a new tool aboard the International Space Station, the Microsoft Hololens, astronaut Scott Kelly admitted to using the cutting edge technology to play video games.
The Hololens came to the ISS equipped with a program that simulated an alien incursion into the station. According to Kelly the only way to repel the invaders was to “shoot ‘em with your finger”.
Cosmonaut With a Shotgun
It is a little-known fact that most space agencies provide their astronauts with emergency survival kits to be used if a lander crashes in the wilderness. The kits include standard survival tools such as rope, water bottles, and fish hooks.
This all sounds sensible, but until 2006 the Russian kit packed a bit more of a punch. Cosmonauts were provided with an overpowered pistol that would make Bear Grylls drool. The firearm boasted three barrels, a folding stock that doubled as a shovel, a collapsible machete, and enough firepower to bring down a grizzly.
The Ultimate Absentee Ballot
If the insanity of the recent election season has taught us anything it is that every vote counts. So what is a politician to do if they find one of their constituents, say, traveling at 17,150 miles per hour around the outer edges of our atmosphere? Luckily NASA has found a way.
Space-bound citizens are required to choose which elections they would like to participate in one full year before their lunch date. Their ballot is then sent, and returned, digitally from, and to, Mission Control in Houston Texas. The official NASA Tumblr calls this the “vote while you float” method, and it keeps democracy alive in the cold vacuum of space.
A River of Booze
Sometimes the craziest things happening in the universe have nothing to do with humanity. Sagittarius B2 Is a large cloud near the center of our galaxy. In 2009 scientists studying the cloud discovered something delicious. This river of gas and dust, flowing through the center of our galaxy, contains copious amounts of alcohol. There are roughly 10 billion billion billion liters of jolly juice floating in the abyss, but it hides something even tastier.
The compound ethyl formate Is also present in abundance. This compound, and yes this is actual science, smells like rum and tastes like raspberries. Well, not exactly but it is one of the major components in both sensory experiences. So as far as we’re concerned it sounds like Interstellar travel is gonna be lit.
Pooping in Space is Hard
There are certain things we take for granted living on the surface of the Earth. Things like doing jumping jacks, going for walks without a spacesuit, and not having to worry about floating poop. In the earliest days of NASA the missions were short enough that bathroom breaks weren’t necessary, but as the missions got longer the problem was unavoidable.
By the Apollo missions science had dreamed up a solution to the poop problem — just tape a plastic bag to your butt and go. As you can imagine, this method was far from foolproof. The fallible nature of this design led to the official transcript of Apollo 10 to contain lines such as “Get me a napkin quick. There’s a turd floating through the air” and “Mine was a little more sticky than that. Throw that away”.
The Dangers of Yellow Snow
As we have seen, the human digestive system and the bodily waste it produces can create complications on any celestial mission. Even current space flight can fall prey to these pitfalls, and that is exactly what happened on the very first space shuttle mission. NASA’s specially-designed waste expulsion system did not work as planned, and some urine collected on the exterior of the space shuttle Discovery.
This one-foot wide and two and a half foot long pee popsicle would not have been a problem, if not for the pesky need to eventually return to Earth. During reentry, the icicle could break off and damage the protective heat shield. Luckily Mission Commander Hank Hartsfield was able to dislodge it using one of the shuttle’s robotic arms.
An Open Mind
We think of astronauts as serious and level-headed individuals. They are not given flights of fancy or wild imaginations. It is not surprising that, when one reports seen something strange, we tend to give their opinion more weight than the average UFO conspiracy theorist. Astronaut Leroy Chiao returned from a trip outside the ISS with a tale of something that has yet to be fully explained.
While flying 230 miles above the surface of the Earth, this logical man claims he saw a series of bright lights moving past. “I saw some lights that seemed to be in a line and it was almost like an upside-down check mark”.
Everyone remembers their 8th-grade science teacher insisting that nothing could survive in the vacuum of space. I am happy to report that your 8th-grade science teacher was completely full of it. In 2014 astronauts took a walk outside the International Space Station to take some samples from the exterior. A mundane task that should have you mundane results, but instead gave the soaring scientists quite the shock.
The samples contained a colony of bacteria similar to algae found in the ocean. This was the scientific equivalent of stopping to squeegee your car windshield at the gas station and finding a buffalo on your hood. The strangest part is nobody can definitively explain how it got there, or how it can survive in the vacuum of space.
Farts and F-Bombs
Just because you have exited the Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t mean you can control the natural methane produced by digestion. Early space men were not lucky enough to have modern air filters in their space suits. One astronaut in particular had a reaction to his flatulence that was less than well received by Mission Control.
During Apollo 15 John Young radioed to Mission Control, “I have the farts, again. I got them again, Charlie…I haven’t eaten this much citrus fruit in 20 years! And I’ll tell you one thing, in another 12 [explicit] days, I ain’t never eating anymore”. That’s right, the first official space fart and the first F-bomb on the moon happened within minutes of each other.
The Missing Moonwalk
Despite the extremely complex nature of their work NASA has managed to have relatively few major mishaps. The majority of their missions launch and land without any problems, But even within the safety of Earth’s atmosphere, it is possible to make a mistake.
While looking for a way to record some satellite data one hapless NASA employee grabbed the first piece of magnetic tape he could find. This particular magnetic tape already contained the video recording of Apollo 11’s moon walk. That’s right, someone recorded over the video of the very first time a human took a stroll on another celestial body.
Red Sprites and Blue Jets
Everyone knows how lightning works. A brilliant streak of electricity travels from a cloud down to the ground, making a big boom and causing your dog to run and hide under your bed. In 2015 an astronaut aboard the International Space Station caught a rare photo of another form of lightning that behaves a bit differently. This new kind of lightning doesn’t travel down, but up above the storm cloud.
Scientists have recorded three distinct forms of this lightning and dubbed them red sprites, blue jets, and elves. While the names might sound like rejected characters from a Lord of the Rings spin-off, the real life phenomenon is breathtakingly beautiful.
Apollo 10 marked the first manned mission to orbit the moon. Thomas Strafford, John Young, and Eugene Cernan were the first human beings to visit the dark side of our nearest space neighbor. It also marked the very first time people were outside the range of any radio communication with Earth. You would think that these three astronauts would experience complete radio silence, but you would be wrong.
While in this communication dead zone all three men reported hearing a “Whistling sound”, remarking that it sounded like “outer-space-type music”. We can hope that they were all hearing the Doctor Who theme song, announcing the arrival of the TARDIS, but it was most likely radio interference between VHF systems aboard their own craft.
A Face Full of Ammonia
Ammonia is an unpleasant substance when you’re just trying to clean your bathroom, but when you’re floating in a space suit hundreds of miles above the Earth it’s a nightmare. In 2001, aboard the shuttle Atlantis, Capt. Robert Curbeam and his partner, Thomas Jones, were performing maintenance when Jones heard two words no astronaut wants to hear “Uh-oh.” Ammonia was leaking from the shuttle.
With a herculean effort, Curbeam stopped the leak and saved the shuttle. The astronaut was immediately confronted with the issue of the ammonia that was now covering his space suit. Curbeam had to stay outside of the spacecraft for an entire Earth orbit to let the sun evaporate the ammonia.
A Dangerous Sensor Blackout
Before Chris Hadfield was a viral internet sensation, he was but a humble astronaut. On his first space flight, he was tasked with docking the united states space shuttle with the Russian space station Mir. Much like the current political climate, this task seemed impossibly difficult. According to Hadfield “If you hit Mir just a little too hard, then you would break Mir in half and kill the three people on board. So you’ve got to hit it exactly right.”
With roughly 30 feet to go his sensors malfunctioned and he was left completely in the dark. Using some good old fashioned American ingenuity he was able to avert disaster and dock the shuttle safely.
Fire On Mir
In an enclosed space, with an oxygen rich atmosphere, and nothing but freezing nothingness outside, fire is possibly the most terrifying thing imaginable. In 1997, while on an extended stay aboard the Russian space station Mir, Jerry Linenger was confronted with just that scenario. A malfunction while switching out air canisters caused a flame, similar to a blowtorch, to ignite the interior of the space station. According to Linenger “The fire was so hot it was melting metal.”
He and the rest of the crew battled the flames using fire extinguishers for 14 harrowing minutes. Thanks to their efforts they were able to avoid what could have been the greatest disaster in the history of space travel.
The Death of a Cosmonaut
The term “Cosmonaut” conjures the image of a brave, proud, and stoic individual. That image makes what happened to Vladimir Kamarov even more chilling. According to a book, Starman by Piers Bizony and Jamie Doran, Kamarov was unsure about the 1967 mission from the start. He had little faith in the second generation Soyuz spacecraft he would be flying in, and with good reason. His concerns turned to dread upon beginning his descent.
As the truth became clear, that he would never survive the fiery storm of reentry, Kamarov sent out one last communication. This strong emotional rock of a spaceman was heard sobbing and cursing the defective spacecraft that would be his doom.