Tang, The Astronauts' Drink That NASA Didn't Invent

By | May 22, 2018

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A '70s advertisement for Tang shows aliens drinking it on the moon; John Glenn was the first astronaut to take the drink into space in 1962. Source: YouTube; NASA.gov

There's nothing like a celebrity endorsement to give your brand that cool factor -- just ask the makers of Tang. Astronauts drank it in space in the 1960s, and everyone knew Astronauts were the coolest.

Times were tough for Tang before NASA's astronauts gave it a boost. The orange-flavored drink was invented in 1957, and first sold in 1959 by General Foods. It wasn't a hot seller -- after all, in America, land of abundance, did we really need a replacement for good old orange juice? 

Tang existed as a product for a few years before finding its niche, in outer space. The first astronaut to bring Tang into orbit was John Glenn, on a Mercury mission aboard Friendship 7 in February 1962. 

Why Take Tang Into Space?

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Advertisement tying Tang to the Gemini missions. Source: Pinterest

Tang went on to be used on missions of NASA's Project Gemini, the successor to the Mercury manned missions to space. An engineer who worked on Project Gemini offered an explanation to the obvious question: Why Tang?

There was a particular component of the Gemini life support-system module which produced H2O. This was a byproduct of a reoccurring chemical reaction of one of the mechanical devices on the life-support module. The astronauts would use this water to drink during their space flight. The problem was, the Astronauts did not like the taste of the water because of some of the byproducts produced. So Tang was added to make the water taste better.

Got it? In space, the water was icky, so the astronauts would add flavors to it. Tang might not have been the only flavor they used -- when an astronaut went to juice-ify his water, the powder came from a plain packet labeled "orange drink" or some other flavor.