On March 23, 1965, NASA pilot John Young became the first man to take a sandwich into space, writes Rachel Feltman for the Washington Post. Sandwich fans can debate the merits of the corned beef on rye which Young decided to take with him, but will probably be less impressed to hear that he waited two days before he ate it.

NASA Astronaut Smuggled Sandwich Into Space

NASA astronaut smuggled sandwich: Not so tasty in orbit

After spending two days in Young’s space suit the sandwich was understandably less than fresh when he took a bite two hours into the Gemini 3 mission. According to reports, NASA mission commander Gus Grissom asked Young where the sandwich came from, to which he replied: “I brought it with me. Let’s see how it tastes. Smells, doesn’t it?”

The taste test did not go well, with the pair reporting that the sandwich was crumbly and difficult to eat before they put it away in a pocket. It turns out sandwiches do not do well in space.

Young did not have long to eat the previously tasty treat, given that the Gemini 3 mission lasted only 5 hours. One of the first manned space missions launched and made three orbits of the Earth before returning to solid ground.

Controversial sandwich

“Here I was, sitting over there flying and John was fooling around with the food, and all of a sudden he asked me if I wanted a corned beef sandwich,” Grissom said in an interview with the Miami News in 1965.

“I hadn’t counted on the pungent odor of corned beef in a closed cabin,” Young said, although Grissom apparently did not mind so much.

However the prank was not appreciated by everyone, and some members of Congress were upset that the astronauts did not make use of the expensive space food provided. NASA’s associate administrator for manned spaceflight had to assure officials that the agency had “taken steps … to prevent a recurrence of corned beef sandwiches in future flights.”
Safety concerns mean that today’s astronauts eat tortillas instead of regular bread, crumbs from which can damage delicate electrical equipment. Luckily for Young, no damage was caused by his corned beef on rye.