An asteroid named Oumuamua that distinctly resembled a cigar captivated the scientific world. It even had a reddish glow on one end, which made it appear lit as it traveled through space. The design so baffled scientists and amateur astronomers that many believed it was an alien vehicle on cruise control. While Oumuamua is the first known voyager from another universe, it was not an alien vehicle. It also wasn’t a cigar, which begs the question, “Do astronauts smoke cigars in outer space?”
The Right Stuff
Outer space has enamored Hollywood since the days of silent films. Blockbusters like The Right Stuff and Apollo 13 gave tremendous insight into the astronauts’ tastes and exercise routines. In 1959, NASA prohibited the “Original Seven” astronauts from smoking cigars and cigarettes. While that ban may have applied to the astronauts, it never prevented the Mission Control team from lighting up celebratory cigars – especially in the case of the nearly doomed Apollo 13 mission!
Heroes Smoke Cigars
The astronauts from the space program’s early days remain legends today. The first American in outer space, Alan Shepard, loved cigars as did the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong. As the Cold War gathered steam, they adhered to a strict code; no Cuban cigars. However, when John Glenn completed the first Mercury orbital flight, he received his weight in Cuban cigars upon return.
The Space Race and Cigars
Just because astronauts can’t smoke cigars in space doesn’t mean they gave up cigars entirely. Many bring a trophy cigar to enjoy immediately upon splashdown. Cigar makers got into the space race as well. Alec Bradley was the first cigar maker to “officially” launch cigars into outer space. They attached 30 Alec Bradley Mundial cigars to a specially rigged weather balloon launched with the FAA’s blessing. They reached the stratosphere before plummeting to earth via parachute and immediately smoked in celebration!
Celebrating Dads in Outer Space
Randolph Bresnik became a father while stationed on the International Space Station. Videos surfaced of him “floating” cigars to his fellow astronauts while experiencing zero gravity.
The payloads for astronauts are scheduled down to the ounce to account for maximum capacity on long voyages. Still, Bresnik was given special clearance by NASA to celebrate the achievement. None of them lit up, as astronaut Wally Schirra once pointed out. The effects of the smoke and the trace chemicals in cigars are potentially corrosive. Aside from that, the enhanced oxygen atmosphere presents a significant fire risk and is incredibly dangerous!
To Smoke Cigars on Mars and Beyond
There has been discussion for decades about colonizing the moon and Mars. If cigar-loving astronauts have any say in the matter, one of the first buildings will be an exclusive cigar lounge! There are evident complications with smoking cigars in space due to the need for pure oxygen. Yet, there is one thing the Apollo 13 astronauts have taught us – difficult situations demand creative solutions!
Relations with Cuba are better than in the decades since the first astronauts went to outer space. So, it’s probably safe to assume that Cuban cocktails and cigars will eventually find their way to outer space!
Photo credit: “Neil A. Armstrong – Astronaut Edwin Eugene ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, Jr. on Moon (1969)” by luvi is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.