Minutes before the August 5 landing of the Mars rover Curiosity, anxious engineers and scientists in the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were munching on handfuls of peanuts while they huddled over their computers, awaiting the rover descent’s "seven minutes of terror."
It’s just one of the superstitious NASA traditions. The peanut tradition started in the 1960s during JPL’s Ranger missions, which were designed to fly into the moon and take pictures of it. The first six Ranger spacecraft failed during launch or while leaving orbit, but on the 7th launch, someone brought peanuts into the mission control and the mission succeeded. It’s been a tradition at JPL launches and landings ever since.
On the day of their launch, NASA astronauts eat scrambled eggs and steak, as a tribute to astronaut Alan Shepard, who ate this breakfast before his Mercury Freedom 7 flight in 1961.
Before a launch, the commander must play cards with the crew until he loses a hand. They believe the tradition originated during the two-man Gemini missions.
After the shuttle orbiter was transported from the orbital processing facility to the vehicle assembly building, the managers would give the team donuts and bagels.
The Russian space programme has its strange tradition. Before the launch, they urinate on the right rear wheel of their transfer bus, an act supposedly performed by Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.
After a successful launch at Kennedy Space Center, the team enjoy a meal of beans and cornbread, a tradition started by ex-NASA test director Norm Carlson.