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Currently everything used by astronauts in space gets there via a state/government sponsored lift. Astronauts can also bring a few personal supplies, but I imagine that most if not all financial considerations occur at government level electronically on earth.

If an astronaut has a candy bar, or something else of value that they are interested in exchanging with another astronaut, is cash (any countries' money) ever used in that exchange?

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    $\begingroup$ This is a way better question than I expected from the title :) $\endgroup$ – Hohmannfan Mar 21 '17 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ I've heard informally from various crew members that there exists somewhat of a token economy involving food -- particularly tortillas. It all boils down, of course, to the various personalities on board at any given time. $\endgroup$ – Tristan Mar 21 '17 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Uwe what is the mass of a standard issue gorilla suit? youtu.be/f0lpiXAHuyA?t=23 I have a hunch that scientific studies have shown that (most) people need the occasional "creature comforts" to stay happy in space. Crew morale can probably be assigned an approximate, and very large monetary value if you need to look at it in those terms. Just for example, look at how much experimental research the crew does every day. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 22 '17 at 1:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Uwe That's true of nearly every item that goes up including the human beings and food, and completely irrelevant if we're talking about an astronaut's gambling money. (It's not true for denominations above around US$50, by the way; US currency is 1 gram per bill.) $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Mar 22 '17 at 1:32
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    $\begingroup$ @JamesJenkins Except they eat the tortillas. $\endgroup$ – Tristan Mar 22 '17 at 20:40
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I was fortunate enough to sit in on a talk by astronaut Rick Mastracchio this morning. Among other things, he was a flight engineer for Expedition 38/39, during which the ISS saw the arrival of the first Cygnus resupply capsule to Station.

CRS Orb-1 was originally scheduled to arrive on Station just before Christmas, and the crew was looking forward to its arrival like kids on, well, Christmas. Unfortunately, a fault developed with an ISS coolant system that necessitated a series of spacewalks, causing NASA to stand down the launch of the capsule. It eventually arrived and was grappled on January 12th.

Before these dates were decided, there was betting amongst the crew about whether the repairs or the delivery would win out in the scheduling - Rick mentioned putting a spicy chicken meal on the line (apparently a favorite).

While it's possible this was just a joke, I'd be willing to believe it. Later in the talk, Rick was asked about the food on station - he said that while it was good overall, a 9-day variety cycle across a 6 month stay started to get pretty old. I would imagine that the fresh food right after a delivery is very valuable to the crew.

This doesn't prove that cash is never used in the exchange, of course, but with the crew's basic needs provided for, this sort of wagering is probably about the only time a "money" substitute is needed. And I suspect that the prospect of winning something novel on orbit is much more fun than just putting cash on the line!

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Another $0.51!

Currently this money is not in the possession of any astronauts, but it is none the less money in space. (well, the penny is on Mars, so not exactly "in space"?)

Two US state commemorative quarters (Florida and Maryland) were added to New Horizons "for spin balance". They are mentioned in Coin World here and here. The Florida quarter is notable because it is space-themed and was handed to NASA engineers by Florida's Governor Bush. Actually according to the article it was an entire roll of quarters! The rest were donated as souvenirs to people working on the spacecraft.

"For spin balance, we need to add a number of kilograms to various places [on New Horizons]," explained Stern. "We knew this was the case because the moments of inertia of the spacecraft and the dynamical properties of it, that we would have to trim it out down to literally the grams-level with balance weights. Of course, we had a whole variety of big ones and little ones; you start off with adding a kilogram here and a kilogram there and you end up getting smaller and smaller weights in various places until you're done. We used the coins to that purpose," he said.

"Since we needed a counter balance to [the Florida state quarter], we decided to fly a second state quarter. We picked Maryland because that is where the spacecraft was built. And because we had so many people back in Maryland at the Applied Physics Lab and at Goddard, it was easy for someone to ship us a quarter really quick."


A 1909 US penny is attached to the Curiosity Rover's test pattern collection. Read more about it at Coin News. Here is an image of it on Mars:

below x2: Martian dust-covered penny on Curiosity Rover. From here.

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below: Penny on Curiosity Rover. From here.

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below: Penny on Curiosity Rover's eye chart. From here.

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below: State of Florida Commemorative Quarter to be attached to New Horizons spacecraft. Maryland state quarter was also on board, but located at a different position for balance reasons. From here.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ A good answer for the title, but not for OP's question as written. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Apr 26 '17 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove ya I had thought about that, but then decided that since there was already a good quality 'primary' answer, adding a supplementary answer would not hurt in this case, as long as I included the disclaimer "Currently this money is not in the possession of any astronauts, but it is none the less money in space." as the first sentence. Just now I've added to that the parenthetical about the penny being on Mars. In the future, people seeing the title to this question and coming here to read might benefit from learning about this money in space and how it got there. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Apr 26 '17 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ In God we dust... $\endgroup$ – Sean Mar 21 at 0:12
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Possibly as much as another $200!

From page 12 of Catalogue of Manmade Material on the Moon (found here)

money on the Moon

From http://www.jeffersonspacemuseum.com/apollo-15

About the Bill

The crew of Apollo 15 took along \$2 bills and \$20 bills within their pilots preference kits (PPKs). This bill is one of the 50 flown US two dollar bills which made it along on the mission in the command module Endeavor with Al Worden, and remained in lunar orbit while Dave Scott and Jim Irwin explored the lunar surface. Another package of bills was flown to the lunar surface, but were unfortunately left there by mistake -- leaving a number of extremely rare \$2 and \$20 bills that have spent the last 40+ years on the lunar surface. The Apollo 15 crew would later become embroiled in a scandal involving flown postal covers, which would impact all future US manned flights in terms of what could be carried in a PPK. By 1973, currency and coins, which could be commercialized on the secondary market, were banned by NASA from being taken along on US space flights -- forever altering the tradition on post-Apollo flights. (Even official NAA flight certification dollars were changed to flown certificates on later flights to comply with this regulation.) After Apollo, only bills flown via Russian Soyuz or private commercial flights (such as SpaceShipOne) would add to the population of space flown \$2 bills.

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    $\begingroup$ I never heard about the money being left, that's interesting. There's a sample return mission that might pay off by selling them to collectors. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 21 at 0:42
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble I don't live as far away as Hadley Rille but there's a whole bunch of $3 bills here. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 21 at 0:50
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    $\begingroup$ They have $3 bills in Cuba as well... $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 21 at 0:53
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble wow, literally! And they show an image of that guy who's on all those tee-shirts. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 21 at 0:56
  • $\begingroup$ I guess 3 pesos convertibles technically. imgur.com/a/S8NJ2d5 $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 21 at 0:58

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