In the 50-plus years since that first peanut-fueled mission, NASA’s technology and know-how have gotten much better. The missions have gotten riskier, too. “Only about 40 percent of the missions ever sent to Mars – by any space agency – have been successful” so far, according to NASA Mars. Hundreds of things have to go exactly right. None of them have anything to do with whether peanuts are on hand at mission control. But they couldn’t hurt.
Will NASA admit the peanuts are mere superstition? The guy who first brought the peanuts to NASA in 1964 didn’t want to go that far. “I hope not,” Wallace said (via NASA). “Not in this bastion of logic and reason.”
If peanuts are so lucky (er, traditional), then maybe they should accompany astronauts when and if they embark on the first human mission to Mars. That might be OK, as long as they’re unsalted – NASA has banned salt and other spices in their usual, granular form because they can make a big mess in zero gravity (via The Franklin Institute). But if astronauts are going to get enough food on a mission that will take months or years to complete, they’ll need to grow their own. Experiments involving growing food on the International Space Station have included lettuce, cabbage, mustard, kale, and wheat, according to NASA. Astronauts have even gotten to eat some of what they’ve grown. So far, however, peanuts haven’t made it on the space menu.