Do Astronauts Smoke Cigars in Outer Space?
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 look like it was in fact, 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 definitely 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
Hollywood has been enamored with outer space since the days of silent films. Blockbusters like The Right Stuff and Apollo 13 gave tremendous insight into the personal tastes and exercise routines of the astronauts. 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 early days of the space program remain legends to this day. 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 successfully 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 which was launched with the FAA’s blessing and 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. Although the payloads for astronauts are scheduled down to the ounce to account for maximum capacity on long voyages he 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 risk of fire and is incredibly dangerous!
To Smoke Cigars on Mars and Beyond
There has been talk 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 clear complications with trying to smoke 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 they have been 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: NASA