The Lighter Side

(Still More Attempted and Inadvertent Apollo Humor)

Lunar Flatulence (Moon Farts)

(Please note: contains adult language) Many people don't realize how uncomfortable early spaceflights could be for the crews. While on the Moon in the cramped Lunar Module they had to eat cold food - as the LM had no hot water, they had to wipe off the grimey moondust with a few small towels, and they had to deficate in plastic bags. Add some gastrointestinal discomfort, itself a common malady reported by the astronauts, and you could get pretty surly, though most crewmen discussed it only among themselves, or with the Flight Surgeon.

After Apollo 15 Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin came home to Earth with heart irregularities, which NASA doctors believed were related to a potassium deficiency, NASA spiked the astronauts' moonsuit drink containers with a higher level of the chemical. Apparently, the orange drink wasn't too great in the first place, and could cause a bit of stomach upset.


Oh, What You Said!

During the April 1972 mission of Apollo 16, Commander John Young and Lunar Module Pilot Charlie Duke were sitting in their tiny lunar home, trying to enjoy their not-so-appetizing cold dinner, after a long first moonwalk. Young thought he was talking only to Duke, and didn't know he had a hot mike - an open voice radio circuit - and was sharing his personal comments to the world. The groups of voice transcribers in Houston dutifully transcribed his words. The image below is the actual transcript as published in "Apollo 16 Spacecraft Commentary," by the Manned Spacecraft Center Houston Public Affairs Office.

Here is the same passage as transcribed by the excellent and authoritative Apollo Lunar Surface Journal:

128:50:37 Young: I have the farts, again. I got them again, Charlie. I don't know what the hell gives them to me. Certainly not...I think it's acid stomach. I really do.

128:50:44 Duke: It probably is.

128:50:45 Young: (Laughing) I mean, I haven't eaten this much citrus fruit in 20 years! And I'll tell you one thing, in another 12 fucking days, I ain't never eating any more. And if they offer to sup(plement) me potassium with my breakfast, I'm going to throw up! (Pause) I like an occasional orange. Really do. (Laughs) But I'll be durned if I'm going to be buried in oranges.

128:51:13 Duke: (Too faint to hear) you really played it easy today. I wish I'd stayed out another hour.

128:51:25 Young: I knew all that stuff you were doing would make you work hard.

128:51:28 Duke: It seemed like...

Why the small differences in the two? Generally, because the transcribers in 1972 were working rapidly, so NASA Public Affairs could provide the final transcripts to the media as soon as possible. Sometimes they made errors, and in the days of mechanical and electric typewriters, even a tiny goof was tough to correct.

Listen For Yourself: What Did John Young Say? (640KB, mp3 format)

John Young, NASA's most senior astronaut - some also say "most outspoken while still employed" astronaut - of all time, finally retired from NASA after more than 40 years of service, in December 2004.