Today, everyone is familiar with Neil Armstrong’s famous first words when he set foot on the lunar surface: “one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” He made it look easy, but America’s journey to the moon was anything but simple. In 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, into orbit, America had barely crossed the starting line of the great Space Race. Later that year, our first attempt was such a failure that the media nicknamed it “Kaputnik.” Still, we didn’t give up. With each failure, we gleaned valuable information about what went wrong, and how to avoid it in the future. So we tried again. And again. And each time we failed, we failed a little bit better. Each time, we got a little bit more creative.
In 1961, When Alan Shepard desperately needed a bathroom after waiting for hours past his scheduled launch time, already sealed into his aircraft, Mission Control problem-solved by temporarily shutting down the rocket’s power... so that he could urinate into his suit without shorting the electronics on board. Later, when things didn’t go as planned aboard the Gemini 8, Armstrong managed to slow an uncontrolled spin by firing the craft’s re-entry thrusters.
In this humorous first installment of the Epic Fails series, Ben Thompson and Erik Slader take readers through the numerous failures that comprised the Space Race, paving the way for humanity’s eventual success at reaching the stars. The Epic Fails series explores the humorous backstories behind a variety of historical discoveries, voyages, experiments, and innovations that didn't go as expected but succeeded nonetheless, showing that many of mankind's biggest success stories are the result of some pretty epic failures indeed.