John Young died January 5 at the age of 87. He was NASA’s longest-serving active astronaut, having flown two missions each for the Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle programs. He commanded the maiden Shuttle flight, taking the Columbia out for a spin with Bob Crippen. He was also one of only three people in human history who returned to the moon for a second visit.
But despite his storied career and extensive experience as a master spaceman, his accomplishments have always seemed overshadowed by an incident onboard Gemini 3.
You see, at T+01:52:26 of the flight, as he and his crew mate was working quickly through assorted checks and experiments, he nonchalantly offered a contraband, two-day old, corned beef sandwich to a perplexed Gus Grissom.
Grissom’s Mercury program teammate and consummate prankster Wally Schirra purchased the sandwich two days earlier at Wolfie’s Restaurant and Sandwich Shop at the Ramada Inn in Cocoa Beach. Young managed to stick it in a pocket in his flight suit, and the rest is well documented history…
…literally, as the incident eventually was the topic of a House appropriations committee hearing, which in turn is responsible for one of the greatest moments in Congressional testimony ever, when Associate Administrator for Manned Spaceflight George Mueller assured Congressman George Shipley of Illinois that NASA had “[…] taken steps […] to prevent recurrence of corned beef sandwiches in future flights.”
And as the news reports pop up announcing Young’s death, sadly that corned beef sandwich steals the spotlight, again. #worthit
Read more at The A.V. Club: R.I.P. astronaut John Young, the first man to get yelled at for smuggling a sandwich into space