Remember Tang? That drink mix that came in little individual packets or in a plastic jar that you could mix into your water and turn it fluorescent orange or purple? It’s one of those nostalgic drinks that you don’t really see anymore, even though they apparently still sell it.
Ah, the good old days of youth when you could start your day off with Cookie Crisp (a cereal made entirely of small chocolate chip cookies), bring some Lunchables (which were like 99% preservatives) to school with you, and then come home to the afterschool treat of a cold glass of Tang (essentially just sugary water), all without having to worry about gaining any weight or developing diabetes. How things have changed!
While I certainly look back fondly on my memories of drinking Tang, there’s a certain astronaut that does not whatsoever: Buzz Aldrin, the second man to ever step foot on the Moon. While getting interviewed at the 2013 Spike TV Guys Choice awards, Aldrin told the audience that he thought Tang sucked.
After hearing about this, I was inspired to try Tang once again, and I’d have to admit that I definitely agree with the famous astronaut. The creators of Tang clearly know nothing about subtly.
The drink, regardless of how much water it’s mixed into, is just entirely too sweet. In addition, it leaves an aftertaste similar to cough medicine, or more accurately if you mixed Emergen-C with several thousand grams of sugar. It’s just not good.
With that said, you may be wondering what the connection between Buzz Aldrin and Tang is at all. Why would this astronaut be talking publicly about how much this drink mix sucks? When did he develop this vendetta? Well, let’s look back at the history of Tang and why it’s got Buzz Aldrin so pissed off.
The History of Tang
In 1957, food scientist William A. Mitchell of General Foods Corporation formulated the idea to make a drink out of what he called “flavor crystals.” The result of his experiments was the powdered drink mix that we today know as Tang.
This wasn’t Mitchell’s only contribution to the world of food, however. The New Jersey resident had more than 70 patents throughout his lifetime. His experiments with self-carbonation led to the creation of the popular candy Pop Rocks and he also introduced Cool Whip, the popular imitation whipped cream, to the world.
When General Foods started marketing Tang in 1959, though, sales never took off and the line became largely unprofitable. That all changed when John Glenn boarded the Mercury space flight in 1962.
For years prior to the flight, NASA had been trying to come up with solutions for feeding the astronauts and storing food in the harsh conditions of space. Eventually, they realized that drink powder was exactly what they needed and they drew up a contract with General Foods to buy Tang in bulk.
John Glenn’s Mercury flight, while lasting only a few hours, was used as a test to see if Tang and the other food items could survive the vacuum of space. Tang’s delivery method was modified slightly for the flight; instead of trying to mix the product into water in a zero-gravity environment, the astronauts would inject a pouch of Tang with a needle full of water and then simply stick a straw in the pouch.
So, once Glenn’s Mercury flight went up into space, the sales of Tang went up almost immediately. While it’s not even clear if Glenn ever even tried to consume the product during his five-hour flight, it didn’t matter. Tang had left the atmosphere and that’s all the marketing team needed.
Tang Takes Flight
Following John Glenn’s 1962 test run of Tang, the product’s sales saw a massive jump as the company continued to market Tang as a space-age drink. In the coming years, Tang would continue to cement its association with NASA in the public eye.
The product flew on many of the Gemini missions that went until 1966. Tang also made its way onto several of the Apollo missions. In fact, Tang even sponsored the coverage of the Apollo 8 mission on ABC.
At that point, Tang was a household name inextricably linked to NASA and John Glenn’s Mercury mission. When John Glenn ran for President of the United States in 1983, he was continually asked whether or not he really liked Tang. The question was ignored.
Since it took off, Tang has become a billion-dollar brand globally. While it’s no longer very popular in the United States, many households all over South America still love the powdered drink mix. Why did Tang fall out of favor in the United States? Well, it might have had something to do with the public comments of one very famous astronaut…
Buzz Aldrin and Tang
As I mentioned previously, Buzz Aldrin was not a fan of Tang. Apparently, there were many other astronauts that felt the same way. In preparation for the Apollo 11 mission, the first successful mission in which humankind stepped on the moon, they had to decide what kind of provisions they were going to take with them. As the story goes, all of the astronauts vetoed bringing Tang along with them. They were forced to bring it anyway.
At the 2013 Spike TV Guys Choice Awards, Buzz Aldrin claimed that “Tang sucks.” He’s also said that he has had to drink it many times before, but that he never enjoyed it. He also said that he was jealous of Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s Red Bull sponsorship because no one had ever paid him for the many times he had to drink Tang.
I’m going to have to agree with Aldrin. Tang sucks. I’m glad I never see it in supermarkets anymore. And, if you disagree with Aldrin and me, you’re better off not bringing it up if you ever meet Buzz. Apparently, when someone confronted him about the Moon landing being faked, he punched that sucker in the face.
In addition to tasting like surface cleaner mixed with cough medicine, Tang is also not very good for you. Yes, it does contain 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.
However, the original Tang was literally 94% sugar. When the brand was bought up by Kraft in 2007, they created a new version with 50% of the sugar. However, that 50% was replaced with artificial sweeteners, which aren’t a whole lot better for you. The drink also contains BHA, which the National Institute of Health says is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” That doesn’t sound good.
On the whole, if you want to take a stroll down memory lane and remember younger days, go order some Tang online and drink it. But I’m promising you, you’re probably not going to like it. And if you add it into your regular diet, you’re health is probably going to decline rather quickly. You’re free to do whatever you want, of course, but just don’t say that Buzz Aldrin and I didn’t warn you.