How NASA Made Tang Popular

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For good reason, Tang will forever be linked with NASA. American astronauts brought it on board with them on their first human flights. 

The original creators of Tang in 1957 were William Mitchell and William Bruce James, two culinary scientists working for General Foods. Mitchell also invented some well-known American candies from your youth, like Pop Rocks and Cool Whip. Although sales of Tang were modest upon its 1959 introduction, the product skyrocketed because of the popularity it received from NASA. 

For good reason, Tang will forever be linked with NASA. American astronauts brought it on board with them on their first human flights. 

When astronaut John Glenn discovered that the water on board his spaceship tasted awful, it became their go-to water enhancer. 

To maintain water purity in orbit, the onboard water was mixed with harmless chemicals, which unfortunately diminished its flavour. To quench their thirst tastily, Glenn and his companions could easily bring Tang with them. 

Tang was the first soft drink to circle Earth when Glenn became the first human—and when he brought it into space aboard Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962. 

This led to the long-held belief that Tang was created with NASA in mind. 

But the truth is that Tang’s partnership with NASA didn’t begin until after the drink had already been manufactured. The fact is that while General Foods was formulating its travel drink mix, NASA made use of a product that was already on the market. 

However, NASA was the only organisation to make Tang cool

Before John Glenn’s sip, Tang sales were slow. The powder, which had been selling slowly, suddenly became the “space-age treat” that children pleaded with their mothers to get. Tang took advantage of this by including space travellers in their advertising. After a sluggish start, Tang became an immediate smash with the help of NASA (and some astute advertising). 

Using video from NASA flights in Tang TV advertisements, General Mills continued to capitalise on the link. In 1968, they even sponsored TV coverage of the Apollo 8 lunar mission. The “For Spacemen and Earth Families” advertising campaign that Tang ran in 1969 was the result of this collaboration; it highlighted the company’s ties to NASA and gave the impression that the agency, rather than a food scientist from General Mills, had produced the product. 

Americans Lose Interest

American consumers’ tastes have evolved significantly in the decades since Tang’s first release. The natural and healthful eating fads that are sweeping the United States right now don’t include Tang. In 2021, CNN pointed out that the beverage had essentially become a “space-age relic” in the United States. 


These days, astronauts mix and drink Tang—which isn’t technically labelled as such on NASA missions—from a single serving vacuum-packed inside an expanding mylar pouch sealed with a plastic valve. After inserting water through the valve using a needle, the astronaut will shake the pouch to combine the contents, and finally, they will drink via a plastic straw. 

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