Tales from the Astronaut Corps

Smacked by a space chicken

Partial transcript of a recent interview with ex-astronaut Sidney Gutierrez, veteran of two shuttle missions and leading advocate of a shuttle escape system (see “Get Out Now”).

Sidney Gutierrez: On an earlier flight a window was hit by a little piece of something, and they concluded afterwards it was a piece of chicken the Russians had ejected and was just floating around in space.

Popular Science: How’d they know that it was chicken?

SG: [NASA scientists] got the material and did an analysis on it.

PS: This was on the shuttle?

SG: It was the window on the shuttle. The window had a little gouge on it and they concluded it was made by the piece of chicken. Usually [when something hits], it is a little thing like a piece of paint or something like that.

PS: How did you know the chicken was from the Russians?

SG: Because we don’t dump anything up there. They used to–I don’t think they do anymore–but they used to eject their trash into space, and eventually it would deorbit.

PS: Is there more lore about people getting whacked by strange things up in space?

SG: A chicken and a piece of paint, those are the best stories I know of.