The Strange Pre-Flight Rituals of Astronauts


So, imagine you’re a astronaut and launch day for your first spaceflight has arrived. Years of intense study and training have culminated in this moment. You’re suited up and ready to go. In mere minutes, you’ll be getting strapped into your spacecraft and blasting into the cosmos. So, how do you spend these final precious moments on earth? If you’re flying from the U.S., the pre-launch tradition is to enjoy a hearty breakfast and a celebratory sheet cake — regardless of the time of day or night. If you’re flying aboard a spaceflight leaving from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, you’ll be ordered to pee on the back-right tire of a bus. It’s tradition. Such rituals — many of which pay homage to the launch-day behavior of spaceflight pioneers — help to soothe frayed nerves on a day filled with excitement. Though some of these traditions have a high quirk factor, they also provide a sense of stability and make astronauts feel linked to those who have traveled before them.