The List: Floating in space

This weekend Nasa (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) will attempt to land a rover on Mars, a mission which involves slowing the rover down from 13,000mph to a complete stop with the help of a parachute, heat shield and rockets. Only then can it attempt to find out if life exists on the red planet. In the meantime, we consider four things that were never meant to leave earth.

1. Miss August

A poster of Playboy model DeDe Lind went into space on board Nasa’s Apollo 12 mission in 1969 – the second lunar landing in history. Fixed to the inside of a crew member’s locker as a joke before lift-off, the picture was only discovered by astronaut Richard Gordon in space. He kept it as a souvenir for more than 40 years before selling it this May at auction for $21,013.

2. Corned beef sandwich

The menu on Nasa’s 1965 Gemini III included hot dogs, brownies and chicken, mostly contained in toothpaste-type tubes. Alas, the US astronaut John Young had other ideas. A little under two hours into the mission, he produced a corned beef sandwich from his flight suit pocket and presented it to his co-pilot Commander Grissom. The following discussion took place:

John Young

Grissom: “What is it?”

Young: “Corn beef sandwich.”

Grissom: “Where did that come from?”

Young: “I brought it with me. Let’s see how it tastes. Smells, doesn’t it?”

Grissom: “Yes, it’s breaking up. I’m going to stick it in my pocket.”

Young: “Is it? It was a thought, anyway.”

Grissom: “Yep.”

Young: “Not a very good one.”

Grissom: “Pretty good, if it would just hold together.”

3. Urine

“The most beautiful sight in orbit is a urine dump at sunset,” said the Apollo 9 astronaut Russell Schweickart, referring to how the liquid freezes after it is released into space and then turns into tiny floating crystals. But all good things must come to an end: in 2009, the International Space Station was equipped with technology that recycles urine into drinking water.

4. Putty knife

Piers Sellers lost a putty knife he had been using for repair work on the space shuttle Discovery before its 2006 flight to the International Space Station. Along with other rubbish monitored by Nasa’s Orbital Debris programme, the tool is now tracked by military radars at 20 sites across the world as it travels at 25 times the speed of sound, orbiting the planet every 90 minutes.

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