Ever since humans first looked into the endless night sky, we have dreamed of traveling among the stars. And after 10,000 years of ingenuity and sacrifice, we’ve journeyed as far as … Earth’s garage, basically.
But nonetheless, such is our fascination with going to space that pretty much every single moment those brave astronauts have spent out there has been painstakingly recorded and analyzed — including the deeply embarrassing ones. We’ve all, at some point, been caught in gross, awkward, or just plain stupid situations, but few have done that in plain view of the infinite cosmos, like when …
#6. An Astronaut Told The Entire World He Had The Farts
We’ve talked before about how a real danger for Apollo 10 astronauts was getting pelted by an errant space turd, and when given the incredibly great honor of interviewing astronaut rock star Chris Hadfield, we obviously couldn’t wait to ask him about the joys of urinating and defecating in space.
But those guys had their gastrointestinal hijinks within the safety of their shuttles and space stations — no mortal butt has touched the universe more directly than the one belonging to astronaut John Young, who developed a biblical case of the farts while standing on the friggin’ moon in 1972. And he made sure that everybody in Houston knew it.
“Yeah, we can smell them from over here.”
Young accidentally left his mic on and recorded permanently and for all of humanity the fact that all the fruit they were eating was giving him some serious gas. Fortunately, the microphone wasn’t strong enough to capture the butt blasts themselves. Oh, and he also threw a few “fucks” in there, because how often does one get to say “fuck” in space? (Technically, all the time, but you know what we mean.) Have you ever let one out and noticed someone else was in the room? Imagine turning around and seeing the whole planet there. You can hear the exact moment Young realizes what’s going on:
That one came with a little extra, apparently.
Florida Governor Reubin Askew was so miffed that Young was blaming his ass gas on his state’s fruits that he went to the press and reassured the American public that Florida oranges do not turn your anus into a machine gun. In fact, it was the extra potassium that was giving Young his astral flatulence. Two of the astronauts on the previous Apollo mission had developed minor heart problems on their flight, so NASA upped the potassium in the crew’s diet on Young’s mission, with the unfortunate side-effect of making him zip around the capsule, powered by his rectal discharge. (And yes, we noticed the word “ass” is in potassium. Grow up, please.)
But don’t laugh, because farts in space were a major safety concern in the early stages of the space program. Zero-G makes astronauts unable to belch (pushing the gas into the intestines instead), and the low air pressure reduces the threshold for butt burps. All that methane mixing with the pure oxygen environment can create a literally explosive situation, which means that NASA spent taxpayer money analyzing the composition and quantity of astronauts’ farts to adjust their diets accordingly. Good looking out, NASA.
“Yeah mom, NASA is great. They have me working on a really … *sigh* … really important project.”
#5. The Crew Of Discovery Had To Melt A Giant Pee Icicle
If you’ve seen Apollo 13, then Tom Hanks’ urine fetish has already given you a good idea of how peeing in space works: You relieve yourself into a tank on board and then the tank sprays your handiwork into space.
Later, on Earth: literal golden showers.
Space piss technology has not dramatically advanced since the heady days of the Moon Race, and the space shuttle’s wastewater system functioned essentially the same way. But then, there was a problem — a giant, stinky, yellow problem. In 1984, something went wrong with the space shuttleDiscovery‘s waste-dump system; urine had clogged the nozzle and developed a sizable pee icicle, which was hanging off the side of the shuttle. While this is an irrefutably hilarious situation to us, it was actually a major concern to the crew, because a 30-pound icicle snapping off during re-entry could damage the shuttle’s extremely delicate heat shield. No one wanted to be the guy who got killed by a monstrous chunk of frozen urine, so the astronauts had to use all their training and cunning to remove the deadly piss Popsicle.
The first approach was to simply melt the bastard off, so for three days the crew angled the peeberg toward the sun, but they were devastated to discover that barely made a dent. So invincible was this whiz monolith that not even the full power of the goddamn sun could weaken it. Sending an astronaut on a spacewalk wasn’t desirable because of the danger involved (also because ewww), so Houston devised a way to use the shuttle’s grabber arm to break the icicle. The arm was able to yank the thing hard enough to shoot all that body fluid into the vast abyss of space. And so the universal ballet continues.
The shuttle’s Calvin decal never looked more appropriate.
But the Futurama episode was far from over. Even with the icicle gone, the crew couldn’t dump any more pee overboard, so they had to start using bags normally reserved for going number two. The problem with this is that urine is naturally a fluid, and in zero gravity it’s susceptible to bounce straight out of the bag and go all over the place. The astronauts eventually decided to pack the bag and their junk with towels and underwear to absorb any wayward pee before it could escape. And thus, the crew was saved from The Deadly Pee Incident of 1984. Just as Orwell predicted. Probably.
#4. John Young (Again!) Smuggled A Sandwich Into Space, Nearly Killed Everyone
The Gemini program was an important episode in America’s race to the moon and saw a number of firsts, including the first American spacewalk, the first time two spacecraft docked, and the first corned beef sandwich to orbit the Earth. During Gemini 3, Astronaut John “He Dealt It” Youngsmuggled a sandwich aboard the rocket in his spacesuit, confirming that he was basically Homer Simpson if he was an astr– he was basically Homer Simpson.
While in orbit, Young whipped out the sandwich for a “taste test” and kindly shared some with his surprised co-pilot, Gus Grissom. Grissom took a bite (hey, a free sandwich is a free sandwich) but quickly stuffed it in his suit when crumbs started flying around the capsule:
“Fine, I forgot to bring food for my dog anyway.”
See, the official food given to astronauts had a special coating to prevent this very thing, because crumbs could get behind electrical panels and wreak all sorts of havoc (which is also the explanation for those fancy zero-gravity space pens). NASA was not amused and told future flights not to pull this kind of shit. Congress also got a bug up its ass about the sandwich … not so much for the safety of the crew but because taxpayers had spent millions of dollars slaving over a hot stove to make this special food, and these rocket jockeys were brown-bagging it?! Not on their water-resistant Casios! Under pressure from Congress, a NASA administrator assured the public, “We have taken steps … to prevent the recurrence of corned beef sandwiches in future flights,” because lunch on Earth is death in the stars.