World’s Strangest

Your source for the strangest things around!

Space Exploration Superstitions

Photo: James
Rickman/Los Alamos National Laboratory

Rationality be damned! When it comes to space exploration, not even the
world’s most brilliant scientific minds are immune to superstitions. Take,
for example, the superstition-turned-tradition of eating peanuts during
space launches:

The tension was palpable in the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory (JPL) in the minutes leading up to the Aug. 5 landing of
the Mars rover Curiosity. Rows of headset-clad flight controllers in
matching pale blue polo shirts huddled over their computers, awaiting
the rover descent’s ”seven minutes of terror.” Then,
seemingly from nowhere, bottles of peanuts started to appear, and soon
all the engineers and scientists were munching on handfuls of the proteinaceous
snack. [...]

The peanut tradition started in the 1960s during JPL’s Ranger
missions, which were spacecraft designed to fly into the moon and take
pictures of it. The first six Ranger spacecraft failed during launch
or while leaving orbit, but on the 7th launch, someone brought peanuts
into mission control, and the mission succeeded. It’s been a tradition
at JPL launches and landings ever since.

Tanya Lewis of Wired Science lists more strange traditions of NASA and
their Russian/Soviet counterparts – for example:


Before a launch, the commander must play cards (supposedly either
Blackjack or 5-card poker) with the tech crew until he loses a hand.
The tradition’s origins are a mystery, but it may have begun during
the two-man Gemini missions.

After the shuttle orbiter was successfully transported from the Orbital
Processing Facility to the Vehicle Assembly Building, the managers would
provide the team with round donuts and bagels. It may have to do with
the fact that these foods are round like the wheels of the shuttle transporter.

Russian Roscosmos/Soviet Space Agencies

Before leaving the Star City training complex near Moscow, Soyuz flight
crews leave red carnations at the Memorial Wall in memory of first man
in space, Yuri Gagarin, and four other cosmonauts. They visit Gagarin’s
office, sign his guestbook, and supposedly ask his ghost for permission
to fly.

On their way to the launch, Russian cosmonauts are known to urinate
on the right rear wheel of their transfer bus, an act supposedly performed
by Yuri Gagarin. Female cosmonauts are excused, but certain women have
been known to carry vials of their urine to spill in solidarity.

Read more over at Wired Science: Link

Post Metadata

August 11th, 2012

Stranger to the World


Leave a Reply