In honor of the handful of humans who have left the planet, here are some stories about the other unique experiences that astronauts have had.
As part of the Apollo 16 mission in 1972, astronaut John Young became the ninth person to ever walk on the moon. But he’s the first to have a massive bout of flatulence while he was there. Young didn’t realize his microphone was on, which relayed everything he said back to Ground Control in Houston. It captured many, many farts, along with Young’s painful, profanity-riddled complaints about how bad his own gas was, which he blamed on all the fruit he’d eaten while training in Florida.
Maybe it’s just John Young
In 2009, pilot Tony Antonelli was part of a mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery. While many astronauts have described the profound visual experience of being an astronaut—viewing the Earth from above, or the infinity of space, for example—Antonelli is the first to describe what space smells like. While he didn’t take his helmet off in space, Antonelli stood in an outer hatch after coming back in from a spacewalk before entering the shuttle proper. That meant the air in that outer hatch was full of “space air,” and he got a good whiff. “Space definitely has a smell that’s different than anything else.” When Antonelli reported this, veteran NASA astronaut Thomas Jones corroborated the observation, describing the smell as “a distinct odor of ozone, a faint acid smell.”
In July 1969, Buzz Aldrin was one of three astronauts onboard the Apollo 11 vessel as it touched down on the moon. Along with pilot Michael Collins, Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first humans to ever set foot on another celestial body. Aldrin spent about two hours bouncing around the moon’s surface and collecting rocks. Or, if you’re a moon landing conspiracy theorist, like Bart Sibrel, you think all of this was faked on a soundstage. As Aldrin was leaving a Los Angeles hotel in 2002 with his stepdaughter, Sibrel confronted the astronaut, calling him “a coward” and “a liar” for being part of the massive moon landing hoax. Aldrin’s response: He punched Sibrel right in the face.