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A recent question yielded the image below that appears to show Buzz Aldrin smoking a pipe in space. Is there any confirmation that the contents of the pipe were ignited or was he just posing with it or chewing on it? Furthermore, do we have any evidence of other astronauts or cosmonauts smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or other tobacco products while in space? Image of Buzz Aldrin in a spacecraft with a tobacco pipe in his mouth.

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    $\begingroup$ Almost certainly it was not lit, smoke would be a hazard, but I'd like to see a definitive answer. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Jan 24, 2023 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ Not an answer, but another question with the same image: space.stackexchange.com/questions/61608/…. This site says he didn't smoke it, but it's not exactly archival-quality. Don't know how hard it will be to find a canonical source. $\endgroup$
    – Ben Bolker
    Jan 24, 2023 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ The astronauts could even risk getting tobacco smoke into their lungs. $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2023 at 10:39
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    $\begingroup$ There are reports, that on the russian space station MIR, some cosmonauts smoked while they were not in contact with the ground stations. I've had this in the back of my head but I can't find a definitive source. And I'm not sure if the question extends to comsmonauts anyway. It seems Jerry Linenger mentions it in his biography about his stint on Mir. $\endgroup$
    – TrySCE2AUX
    Jan 26, 2023 at 6:37
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    $\begingroup$ "within a spacecraft" No. They were given the option to step outside the spacecraft to smoke, but to my knowledge nobody made use of that offer. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 17 at 9:06

4 Answers 4

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Furthermore, do we have any evidence of other astronauts or cosmonauts smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or other tobacco products while in space?

Yes.

According to a footnote on page 89 in Bryan Burrough's excellent book Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis aboard Mir

Peggy Whitson, the NASA scientist who supervised the American science program for Norm Thagard's mission to Mir in 1995, was dismayed to find that the cosmonauts actually smoked cigarettes and drank vodka aboard the station.

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    $\begingroup$ You'd never get the stench out! I pity the non smokers who had to endure the stench on Mir. I can recall being told that one of the criteria for selecting submariners in some navies, some time ago, was they had to be smokers. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Mar 22, 2023 at 14:18
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Comment:

Before I posted that picture of Aldrin (referred to in the OP), I tried to chase down the back story on it. It is a widely posted picture, so there were a lot of poorly documented Reddit-style comments available. Due to the lack of citations, I did not include any of them in my post.

However, the general theme was that Buzz was never without his pipe despite the fact it was seldom lit. Kind of like a kid with a soother. Einstein apparently had a similar habit in his later years. As a reformed pipe smoker, I am very familiar with the behavior.

The story is that James Lovell took that picture (as a joke) while Buzz was sleeping. This is plausible since Buzz’s eyes are closed, his dominant right hand is empty and he’s not attempting to retrieve his slide rule.

If you put those (unsupported) details together, it’s unlikely the picture shows Buzz smoking on the job.

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From the memoirs of Soviet cosmonaut, Hero of the Soviet Union Alexander Serebrov: "I remember I flew with Sasha Viktorenko, so he specially took a pack of Java with him in his pocket, in his bosom. Already in orbit, he knelt in front of the toilet (attached to it so as not to fly away), turned on a filter that absorbs harmful impurities, and began smoking in this very toilet. Sasha only managed to do it once, because I gave him such a blackbird! But the flight managers didn't notice anything.".

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    $\begingroup$ does the memoir have a title? I'm having trouble finding any other references to it online $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Feb 26 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Feb 27 at 7:56
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Not on US missions. It is strictly forbidden on any past or present US mission. They can bring nicotine patches, however. Therefore, Aldrin would not have been smoking.

Why?

  1. It is a fire hazard since spacecraft have far more oxygen than on Earth.
  2. It is a small space. Therefore, just like you can't space on an airplane, you can't smoke on the ISS or any other spacecraft.
  3. It contains harmful chemicals. It increases the chance of cancer or heart disease, not something great to get in space.
  4. It can harm the filters.
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    $\begingroup$ Please give references. About 1: for most vehicles "far more oxygen" is not true, it would be a health hazard on its own. About 2: non-smoking flights are a rather recent thing. About 3/4: Just some general issues with smoking, but not related to space travel. $\endgroup$
    – asdfex
    Mar 15, 2023 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ @asdfex Starship's points come from the reference at their link, though admittedly it is not a scholarly source. The point about oxygen used to be broadly true, but it definitely needs a note that it is not anymore. Fire is still a concern--as it is always a risk with smoking--and the consequences of a fire in space are greater than on Earth. Non-smoking flights may be a recent thing, but the rationale for why they are encouraged applies to spacecraft as well. #4 is specifically related to space travel. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Mar 15, 2023 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ @asdfex This answer could certainly be expanded, however, to make these points more clear, and it's not entirely clear what the basis is for assuming it never happened just because it is strictly forbidden today. Furthermore, the nature of the ban is not made clear from the Smithsonian source. It just says publicly, which leaves use in space ambiguous. In any case, assuming this is correct, it would only apply to NASA, and the OP did not ask about NASA only, so that should be noted in the answer as well. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Mar 15, 2023 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding point #4, I recall a question on aviation.SE about the maintenance problem of getting cigarette gunk out of the air filters after a flight; it turns out to be a lot of work. I'll see if I can dredge up the exact post. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Mar 15, 2023 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm. It looks like I was misremembering, it was comments on this question. But, it seems like it was at least a potential concern for maintenance. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Mar 15, 2023 at 16:55

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