On July 28, 1964, launch day for the Ranger 7 lunar impactor, tensions were running high in JPL’s mission operations room. The previous six spacecraft in the Ranger series had failed, and Dick Wallace, a mission trajectory engineer for the mission, thought handing out peanuts might dissipate some anxiety.
Ranger 7 succeeded beautifully, and now the lucky peanuts show up in mission control not only during launches but leading up to just about any risky maneuver. You might have noticed copious amounts of peanuts being handed out and consumed during the hair-raising landing of the Mars Science Laboratory in August 2012.
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Photo: Courtesy NASA/JPL/Caltech