A Place Called Space
Day 15

Supported by Wellcome Trust

Rituals of a rocket launch

Why do astronauts pee on the wheel of a bus before they take off? Do superstitious traditions really help astronauts about to fire into space? Kevin Fong investigates.

As Tim Peake launches to the ISS, we take a look at the strange traditions, rituals and superstitions that astronauts dutifully carry out before any flight into space. Following in the footsteps of Yuri Gagarin, they echo his actions and pay respects to those that have flown before them. But given that space travel is the culmination of decades of work of scientists and engineers, do these irrational quirks have a place and purpose?

Maybe – just as athletes build confidence and assurance by carrying out certain pre-game habits, so too can astronauts, as they struggle to feel a sense of control over the daunting prospect of being fired into space.

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