When a Hot Mic Caught an Apollo 16 Astronaut Complaining About Farts In Space

In 1972, John Young walked on the moon—and broke some wind.
In 1972, John Young walked on the moon—and broke some wind. / Heritage Images/GettyImages

Everyone farts: Royals, billionaires, Supreme Court chief justices. If you have a butt, it passes gas.

Astronauts have butts—and they fart, too. One butt-owning astronaut, John Young, was no exception to this rule. 

Young was commander of 1972’s Apollo 16 mission. During this mission, he became the ninth person to walk on the moon, and remains the only astronaut to have flown on four different classes of spacecraft: Gemini, Apollo, the Apollo Lunar Module, and the Space Shuttle. When he passed away in 2018 at the age of 87, he was also the longest serving astronaut in the history of NASA. By any metric, Young was an extraordinary man.

But even extraordinary men cut the cheese. And in 1972, Young made it clear that he was one of them. After a heartfelt and stirring piece of praise from Houston—“You guys do an outstanding job”—the mic remained on, and Young immediately moved on from chatting with mission control to casually updating his companion, lunar module pilot Charlie Duke, about an ongoing digestive issue.

“I have the farts again,” Young said. “I got ‘em again, Charlie. I haven’t eaten this much citrus fruit in 20 years! And I tell you one thing, in another 12 f***ing days, I ain’t eating any more.”

When Houston informed Young that there was “a hot mic situation” going on, he responded with the same question most of us would ask: “How long have we had that?”

Unlike fruits that are higher in fructose, such as apples and pears, citrus is lower in fructose so farting is not a common side effect of eating oranges, grapefruit, or lemons. Still, some people do have trouble processing citrus, and end up pumping out a storm of gas. But there might have been something else going on with Young.

When Young’s space-based tail scutter was reported in the press, Florida’s then-governor Reubin Askew was less than thrilled that his state’s most celebrated export was taking the blame for the astronaut’s air biscuits. Askew suggested that, rather than actual citrus fruit, Young may have been eating an artificial substitute. Artificial sweeteners like sorbitol and xylitol can send anyone, even a non-astronaut, on a one-way mission to Fart City. Whatever caused the gas, Commander Young had it.

One small orange for a man, one giant fart for mankind.