We’ve left a lot of strange things in space (and sent quite a few, too), but in 1972, NASA astronaut Ken Mattingly nearly added his own wedding ring to the human race’s vast collection of space miscellanea.
WIRED recently recounted the tale with the help of former astronaut General Charles “Charlie” Moss Duke Jr., who was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 16—the mission where Mattingly almost forfeited that symbol of marital fidelity to the cosmos. (Duke’s also one of the 12 people to have walked on the moon.)
On the second day of the mission, Mattingly misplaced the jewelry and despite the crew’s best efforts, days later, it was still missing in action.
“It just floated off somewhere, and none of us could find it,” Duke told WIRED.
Mattingly didn’t give up the hunt though, and on the ninth day of the 11-day mission, fate intervened. While heading out to check on Mattingly during a spacewalk, Duke noticed the ring floating out of the hatch door. He tried and failed to grab it, accepted the loss, then watched as it bounced off the back of its owner’s head (perhaps a celestial bonk for the mistake) and reverse its course right back inside the vessel. Duke secured it mere minutes later.
Even if it was just lucky physics, we’re sure Mattingly (and his wife) thanked the heavens for the remarkable recovery.
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