RIP To The First Astronaut To Smuggle A Sandwich Into Space

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AV Club- CNN is reporting that John Young—one of the most celebrated astronauts in the history of American spaceflight—has died today, at the age of 87. It would be hard to overestimate Young’s influence on the NASA program; as the organization’s longest-serving active astronaut, he flew on the Gemini missions, piloted the Space Shuttle, and is one of only three people who’ve ever been to the moon on two separate occasions. Despite those storied accomplishments, Young never got as much name recognition as your Neil Armstrongs or your John Glenns. But he does hold one absolutely amazing record that deserves to be memorialized today, in a spirit of acknowledging the importance of playfulness (and hunger) in humanity’s journey toward the stars: He was the first man to get yelled at by Congress for smuggling a corned beef sandwich into space.

The problem, of course, was crumbs (although the worries were more about them getting into components and shorting them out, and not attracting the wrath of our new insect overlords). Certain members of Congress, though, were incensed at the thought that Young had ignored all of his very expensive space food in favor of deli take-out, and ended up setting an appropriations committee meeting to question NASA administrator George Mueller about the event. Thus, the immortal congressional line: “We have taken steps…to prevent recurrence of corned beef sandwiches in future flights.”

Wow. I didn’t know the name John Young before today, but I’m glad I do now. What a legacy he’s leaving behind. Not only did he fly on the Gemini missions, he piloted the Space Shuttle, and went to the moon TWICE…he smuggled a corned beef sandwich into space and got yelled at by congress for it. The crumbs from his corned beef were floating all over the place, short circuiting space stations, and congress had to take steps to prevent it from happening again. Outstanding.

Smuggling food into movie theaters is one of my life’s greatest joys. It’s really not an accomplishment when I do it, because the teenagers that rip tickets in New York City wouldn’t give a fuck if I brought an entire box of pizza to my seat, but I pretend like I’m in Mission Impossible every time and hide shit in my pockets, pants, shirt, jacket…hell, sometimes I’ll even throw a Sour Patch or two in my hat. As much food as I could possibly get in there. I brought an entire tupperware of General Tso’s and a can of soda into my showing of ‘Coco’ not too long ago and was ecstatic!

As for NASA though, what’s up with the pat-down process before we send folks into the stars? Nothing? He said he just put it in his pocket on the way up. Maybe that’s what they meant by “taking steps to prevent recurrence of corned beef sandwiches in future flights”? Just make sure pockets of the astronauts are empty. Just do that one thing. Seems shockingly sophomoric to let this corned beef sandwich get into space for an organization that put a men on the moon in the 60’s.

RIP John Young, gone but never forgotten.