Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pioneering Astronauts and the Etiquette of Dining in Space

 "I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer." ~ Neil Armstrong

Rest in peace...

1969 ~ Neil Armstrong playing ball with his son
This is a post of many subjects today.  An update on Corey Peterson (@downtonabblings), young boys not only becoming men, but fulfilling dreams, and a tribute to Neil Armstrong and all of those pioneering astronauts who inspired people the world over by going to the moon.

Corey and I have been sending emails back and forth for a while now. A few weeks back, I sent Corey a large package of flatware.  Some were antique and and some were new utensils.  Corey needs braces, but cannot afford them.  To reach his goal of getting braces, and combining the flatware with his love of history, I am teaching Corey how to give talks in New Zealand like I do for groups, on the history of flatware, designs for the variety of foods that came in to fashion over the years and how dining has evolved.
Corey does not like to smile in photos, as his teeth are in bad need of braces.  One of his favorite utensils is a mustache spoon I sent him.
We Skype and I go over the history of each utensil, I tie it into modern designs for the physically challenged and talk about the future of dining.  One of the things that came up, just in the last few days, was how astronauts ate early on in their space flights.  I told him about Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the moon, but the first man to eat spaghetti on the moon! I sent him photos and information that I use in my classes when I talk about dining manners for astronauts.
Early foods and beverages were in toothpaste-like tubes, like these in the  cosmonaut meal shown above and below.

Ours didn't look much more appetizing, as this "Apollo beverage" looks like something one would hang on a hamster cage.  The cereal below looks unappetizing, to say the least.

 In July of 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. An amazing event.  I can remember watching, like every other person with a television set, in wide-eyed wonder at the achievement.  My older brother was 14 at the time.  The same age as Corey is now. The moon walkers, astronauts before, and astronauts after, all fascinated my big brother.
 
Alan Bean, Former NASA Astronaut, Moon-Walker in November 1969
I got a chance to interview Bean, a retired USN Captain, former NASA astronaut and one of a handful of moon-walkers, a few years back because of my brother's fascination with what we watched in 1969.  My brother Kevin, aka Mr. Smarty Pants, or 'Astro-Nut', has long collected memorabilia of space exploration.  When he found out that Bean was an artist now, and created beautiful paintings based on his recollections of the moon and space, my brother decided to buy one of his works of art. Not long after, Bean and most of the remaining living moon-walkers at the time, were going to be in Southern California for an event and invited my brother and his wife to join them all for lunch.  My brother was over the moon to be meeting them all in person!
Alan Bean (l) and my brother Kevin (r), discuss the painting.  My brother was 'over the moon' to meet heroes from his youth.
About that time, I was researching dining customs and came across an article about eating in zero gravity.  The next time the family got together, I mentioned astronaut foods and how they have evolved with Kevin.  He asked, "Would you be interested in talking to an astronaut about what it was like?  I can call Alan Bean and ask him if he would let you interview him."  I was thrilled!
One of the handouts I give to students in classes is on dining in zero-gravityJust in case they ever find themselves in zero-gravity.
Alan Bean did agree to a telephone interview with me.  He was charming and funny.  I asked why being the first man to eat spaghetti on the moon was so important to him.  (He wants that achievement on his tombstone when he dies.) He said that he had learned when he was in college, that spaghetti was inexpensive to eat, so he ate it every day. 
Alan Bean- A life long spaghetti-lover!
 He loves spaghetti, and was thrilled when the NASA nutritionists added spaghetti to the Apollo foods, though he did worry that Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin would beat him to the punch.  Fortunately, they didn't.  He wasn't wild about the taste, and said it was a brownish color.  His favorite Apollo food was the chili and with good reason. Living in zero-gravity dulls one's taste buds, so spicy food is good to have.  
You've got to watch those chili "bullets"!
 He recalled one day "floating by" his space flight mates, and commenting that his shirt was perfectly clean.  Their white T-shirts were a mess.  They responded, that yes, they were a mess, but that it was chili, and he was the one that was eating chili.  Bean said that the "spoon bags" that the chili and spaghetti were in, were a bit difficult. That one had to “eat rather slowly & carefully,” to avoid having bits of  food or gravy “shoot out like little bullets” & float around the spacecraft or onto the other astronauts.  Their dirty T-shirts were the result of Bean eating his chili so fast!
Bean would take Fritos Scoops
He admitted that if he was still an astronaut today, as they get to take some store bought foods with them into space now, he would bring "as many 'Fritos Scoops' and cookies as they'd" let him bring on board.  We talked about many other things, but those are for another post.  Like I said, this post is about many things.  I never dreamed I would be looking at a computer screen, talking with a 14 year old in New Zealand and teaching him how he can raise funds to fulfill a dream of straight teeth.  Just as my brother never dreamed he would be meeting those men he watched on television, who had flown into space and  who walked on the moon.  

After all, it was my brother's enthusiasm for space and the photo he took of Venus' transit of the moon that I had posted, along with a news tweet of where to watch the event in New Zealand, mixed with '@downtonabblings' Corey's enthusiasm for a television show about Edwardian Era England, that caused our paths to cross.  Two 14 year olds, separated by time and space, brought together by a tweet and a television show.  I do hope there are many more 14 year olds out in the world today, with dreams as big as the universe, and that their dreams are eventually fulfilled.  If they are spaceflight enthusiasts watching astronauts, or history lovers watching period dramas like 'Downton Abbey', they may succeed.  If however, their televisions are tuned into 'Toddlers and Tiaras' Honey-Boo-Boo, the future of our world is questionable!
I watched men walk on the moon, kids today watch Honey Boo Boo.  This photo sums up all that is wrong with t.v. today!