The Who2 Blog

T Minus 2 Days and Counting: Steak and Eggs

The crew of Apollo 11 share the traditional launch day breakfast of steak and eggs on 16 July 1969. From left: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Director of Flight Crew Operations Donald “Deke” Slayton.

Steak and eggs does seem to have been de rigeur before all NASA missions in the 1960s. Here’s Armstrong (second from left) eating the same meal before the launch of Gemini 8 on March 16th, 1966:

(That’s Deke Slayton again, lower left. Dude got a lot of free breakfasts. Across from Armstrong is Roger Chaffee, who was killed the next year in the Apollo 1 fire.)

Gemini 8 is the mission where Armstrong made his bones, righting the capsule after it began spinning out of control in orbit, so maybe it worked.

Steak and eggs is a studly breakfast, yes, but it has a practical side. Craig Nelson’s 2009 book Rocket Men claims the meal is “low in fiber and low in waste.” Race to the Moon, the 1984 book by William Breuer, describes Alan Shepard eating a “low-residue breakfast” of steak and eggs before becoming the first American in space in 1961.

Do astronauts still eat steak and eggs today? Not so much. The Houston Chronicle in 2005 listed breakfasts for the seven astronauts before the launch of the shuttle Discovery:

EILEEN COLLINS: toast with margarine
JAMES KELLY: fresh fruit
SOICHI NOGUCHI: fresh fruit and a bagel with cream cheese
STEPHEN ROBINSON: fresh fruit and a chicken sandwich
ANDREW THOMAS: chicken sandwich
WENDY LAWRENCE: fresh fruit and a chicken sandwich
CHARLES CAMARDA: chicken sandwich

A chicken sandwich? It just ain’t dramatic.

On the other hand, astronaut Leroy Chiao came out for tradition earlier this year in a funny blog post about preflight routine.

What do you eat before?

Steak and eggs. Medium rare and over easy. This is what the first astronauts ate before launch and why not? I remember during one of my launch counts, the ladies were taking our pre-launch breakfast orders, going around the table. I was hearing things like, dry toast. A little yogurt. Cereal. You gotta be kidding me, what kind of pantywaists am I flying with?

They got to me and I replied firmly and evenly, “Steak and eggs, medium rare and over easy.” Everyone looked at me funny. I stated the obvious. “Hey, we might go out tomorrow and get blown up. I’m going to have steak and eggs!” Immediately, three guys changed their orders to steak and eggs.

So steak and eggs is no longer de rigeur. But it’s still studly.

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