The first corned beef sandwich to orbit Earth was smuggled aboard Gemini III on March 23, 1965. As contraband unapproved for flight by NASA, pilot John Young had hidden the sandwich in a pocket of his spacesuit shortly before the launch. Around two hours into the almost five-hour long flight, he offered some to the commander of the mission, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, who accepted the rye bread and preserved meat gift. The exchange over the sandwich lasted less than a minute and ended with Grissom putting the unfinished sandwich away in his own spacesuit pocket so the breadcrumbs that were breaking off would be less likely to float behind an instrument panel or into one of the astronaut’s eyes.
The approved food for the flight, meanwhile, was kept in a box next to Grissom.
In this image astronaut John Young, the pilot of the Gemini III mission, inspects his helmet in the ready room in preparation for the launch. It is unknown if the contraband corned beef sandwich was already in one of his spacesuit pockets at the time this photo was taken.
Contraband Corned Beef and the Early Days of Space Biology: the Gemini III Mission
Image Credit: NASA
Text: James Anderson