To Infinity and Beyond: 28 Intriguing Facts About Astronauts and Their Missions


1Space pants

Space pants

Astronauts from the Gemini and Apollo missions used a condom-like device to extract urine. The sizes were small, medium, and large. Instead of these terms, Astronauts preferred to use "extra-large, immense, and unbelievable."

2Ed Mitchell

Ed Mitchell

Astronaut Ed Mitchell said of his experience on the moon in 1971: "From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a b*tch.'"

3John Grunsfeld

John Grunsfeld

On Space Shuttle Endeavor, astronaut John Grunsfeld called into NPR's Car Talk and asked why his government vehicle was shaking violently for a couple of minutes before the engine died.



Astronauts lose on average 1% of their bone mass a month, most of which is excreted in their urine. So yeah, they literally pee their skeleton out.

5Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin

When Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the lunar lander to step onto the moon, one of them broke off the toggle switch that armed the ascent engines. Aldrin jammed a pen into the resulting hole to arm the engines so that they could get home.

6Cosmic Rays

Cosmic Rays

Astronauts often see random flashes of light in space, even through their closed eyes. This is caused by cosmic rays passing through their eyes or optical nerves. Scientists think the light is either generated by Cherenkov radiation or by the ray being powerful enough to activate the optical nerve.

7Alan L. Bean

Alan L. Bean

Apollo 12 astronaut Alan L. Bean accidentally destroyed the mission’s TV camera by pointing it at the sun. He also left several rolls of exposed film on the moon by mistake. The camera though had its revenge when he was hit on the head by it when the crew splashed down on Earth.

8Astronaut strike

Astronaut strike

The astronauts aboard Skylab 4 once went on “strike” for a day because they felt overwhelmed by the demands of Mission Control. They used the time to look out the window and think.

9Apollo 11 astronauts

Apollo 11 astronauts

When the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon in 1969, they left behind a white pouch containing a silicon disc slightly bigger than a silver dollar. Inscribed in the microscopic font on the disc are 73 messages, each from a different country, expressing wishes of goodwill and peace.

10Wally Schirra

Wally Schirra

Astronaut Wally Schirra would take pictures of his frozen pee as it floated through space, glinting with sunlight. The pee-flakes looked like a beautiful starfield, he said. One astronomer saw a photo and asked what constellation it was, and Schirra said "Jocelyn, that's the constellation Urion."

Part 2