Pictured above is astronaut John Young. As you can see, he’s on the moon. The date of this picture is April 21, 1972 and the mission was Apollo 16; Young was the ninth person to set foot on the lunar surface and, while only one of a dozen people to be able to make that claim, he’s rarely remembered.
Which is probably why you’ve never heard this before. (You’ll want to put your sound on before you watch the video below, and you’ll also want to make sure no one who is offended by choice language is within earshot. Or you can just keep reading.)
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That’s a recording from the Apollo 16 mission. If you can’t play it, it’s an edited-for-length conversation between Young and his fellow moonwalking crewmate, Charles Duke (“Charlie,” below). The full conversation can be found on NASA’s website, here, but I also made a short transcript of the conversation in the video transcript.:
Mission Control (in Houston): “I sure think it’s paying off. You guys are doing an outstanding job.”
Young (on the moon): “I’ve got the farts again. I got them again, Charlie. I haven’t eaten this much citrus fruit in 20 years! And I can tell you one thing. In another 12 f*cking days, I ain’t never eating any more. I put them up over the . . . right up in here. They ain’t there?”
Young (after a slight pause, but still from the moon): “Oh, sh*t.”
Mission Control (back on Earth): “Orion? Houston.”
Young: “Yes, sir.”
Mission Control: “Okay John, We have a hot mike.”
Young: “How long have we had that?”
Basically, Young had just — accidentally — told the world that during his time going to and walking on the moon, he was farting like crazy. And he blamed the oranges he was eating. And he was probably right — the oranges were, in fact, to blame for his excessive flatulence. Inverse explains:
The extra citrus that caused this flatulence was incorporated into the astronauts’ diets in response to the irregular heartbeats that his predecessors had experienced on the Apollo 15 mission. NASA’s flight surgeon determined that it was caused by a potassium deficiency, sending the next crew up with potassium-fortified fruit drinks, including a lot of orange juice.
When the world heard Young’s accidentally-on-the-record commentary, most people laughed — while we won’t admit it, we’ve all had days like that (just not while on the moon). But one person was worried. Reubin Askew was the governor of Florida at the time and, like today, oranges and orange juice were big export crops from his state. If people believed that OJ made you fart uncontrollably, that would be a problem.”
So Askew took action. As io9 explains, he “was less than pleased that Young was blaming his gas on Florida’s signature crop. After the press reported on Young’s candid discussion of his bodily functions, the Florida governor assured the public that it was not real citrus, but an artificial substitute, that was responsible for Young’s swear-worthy gas.”
So rest assured: eating oranges won’t make you fart — well, for those of us not going to space, at least.
From the Archives: When No Sandwich Has Gone Before: Another one of John Young’s space adventures involving food.