For the Love of FACS

FACS in Space

I’ve always been fascinated with the impact that the developments achieved by the scientists and engineers NASA on our everyday lives.  Today we kick off our year long FACSessorize project by exploring some innovations originated from NASA that have fascinating FACS connections.  Let’s begin with an amusing space story about a corned beef sandwich.


John Young, who died on January 5, 2018 at age 87, is famous for his Apollo 16 moonwalks and his role as commander of the first space shuttle mission.  The NASA astronaut is also remembered for a small scandal he triggered with a sneaky act:  smuggling a corned beef sandwich into space.  Why was smuggling a sandwich onboard the spacecraft such a big deal?  Read on.

An astronomical amount of time and money goes into feeding NASA’s astronauts.  This doesn’t mean that the food is particularly tasty, but it is safe, which in space, means it’s compact.  In an enclosed, weight-less environment, food particles are a liability because they can cause mechanical malfunctions or be accidentally inhaled.  In a spacecraft, food particles can be downright dangerous.

But 34-year-old Young wasn’t thinking about that on March 23, 1965, when he accepted a corned beef sandwich from fellow astronaut and famed practical joker Wally Schirra. Schirra had strolled into Wolfie’s Restaurant and Sandwich Shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida, two days earlier, to buy a sandwich. He passed it on to Young on the day of the flight, and Young zipped it into his space suit.

In Cape Kennedy, Young boarded the spacecraft for the nearly five-hour Gemini 3 mission. A pilot by training, Young was making his first journey into space. Along with his commander, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Young was part of the first American two-man space flight. During a lull, Young signaled to Grissom and pulled the first corned beef sandwich in space from his pocket. As the sandwich was already two days old, it wasn’t a spectacular reveal.  When the sandwich began to break up, Young quickly put it back in his pocket.

Young was given a reprimand, the first ever for a member of a NASA space flight. He eventually regretted smuggling the sandwich into space, especially as the story came up over and over. But Grissom remembered it as “one of the highlights of the flight.”

This is an amusing space story with serious implications.  This week we will explore other NASA innovations that can be used in the FACS classroom.  Hope you find these facts interesting and useful!