A Story in the Stars: When Plumbing brings Mystery to Space - Parker & Sons Skip to content

A Story in the Stars: When Plumbing brings Mystery to Space

It was a crispy and cool spring morning in 1962. The clouds were just beginning to break over Florida as the sun shone through. It promised to be a beautiful day. A day unlike another. Indeed, it was a day history was to be made, and John Glenn, a proud American hero, was the man to make it. His entire life had been leading to this moment. Across the world excited families gathered breathlessly around grainy 12 inch television sets to watch. John Glen was moments away from becoming the first American to orbit the Earth. The Atlas LV-3B rocket roared to life. Smoke and fire plumed into the sky, and he was off. John Glenn was flying, rising at incompressible speed above the world he was about to change.

John Glenn’s mission lasted 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds. He circled the Earth 3 times, travelling at over 18,000 miles per hour. He passed the time conducting experiments, taking readings, and marveling at the vastness of the radiant blue and green planet he had left behind just hours ago. At some point during his second rotation around the globe, something curious happened. He looked out the window of his spacecraft and found himself drifting through a brilliant cloud of iridescent, glow spheres. It was a sight no human had ever seen before. It was beautiful. He called out NASA ground control and said,

“This is Friendship Seven. I’ll try to describe what I’m in here. I am in a big mass of some very small particles, that are brilliantly lit up like they’re luminescent. I never saw anything like it. They round a little; they’re coming by the capsule, and they look like little stars. A whole shower of them coming by.”

Not a single person in the world could explain what astronaut John Glenn had seen. Not for many years anyway. It was a mystery that nearly drove men mad. By now you must be wonder, where did these glowing orbs come from? What created these radiant spheres, described as little stars?

The answer is simple – plumbing. The answer to so many mysteries in our world, and above it. You see, the plumbing inside the Friendship 7 spacecraft was simply designed. John Glenn attached his spacesuit to apparatus in the wall, and did his business. His business was then expelled through an elegant airlock out into the bone chilling cold of outer space, where it froze into a thousand perfect spheres. As he orbited the world, he passed his frozen urine again, and now it was illuminated by the light of the sun. A mystery, which tormented the brilliant minds at NASA for years, had been caused by one of the oldest pieces of human technology, plumbing, plain and simple.

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