The Real Reason People Started Drinking Tang

If the mention of "Tang" takes you back to carefree afternoons spent playing outside in the summer heat and the refreshing drink that followed, you're not alone. The billion-dollar brand was a household name. Like Kool-Aid, Tang is a powder concentrate drink mix that has to be stirred into a glass of water before you can enjoy your first sip. If you have never tried the orange-flavored drink, you might still recall the commercials that have evolved over the decades starring Florence Henderson (via YouTube) and the Looney Tunes characters (via YouTube).

Tang was introduced in the US in 1959, but according to Food & Wine, it didn't take off until after John Glenn took Tang, along with a variety of other foods, with him in the Friendship 7 capsule in 1962 to test how astronauts could eat and drink in zero gravity. Apparently, there's no remaining evidence if Glenn actually tried the Tang during that trip, but just having it on board was enough to start the marketing campaign. Drinking the exact same drink as astronauts ignited the imagination of Americans everywhere, after all, what could be cooler than outer space?

Making space for Tang

Once Tang had gone to space, there was no stopping its marketing team. The drink mix was present on every manned spaceflight for the next 10 years following 1965. In 1968, Tang sponsored ABC's television coverage of the first crewed moon orbit, the Apollo 8 mission. Appropriately, Tang ads started using the tagline "For Spacemen and Earth Families" (via Twin Cities).

But, how exactly were astronauts supposed to make the drink in outer space? It seems like pouring two tablespoons of a powdery substance into a glass of water would make for a zero-gravity disaster! It turns out, they had an alternative method to prevent an orange-flavor-everywhere scenario. According to Food & Wine, astronauts would squirt water with a needle into a vacuum-sealed pack that already contained the powder. The astronauts would then shake it up and stick a straw inside to drink their hard-earned refreshment.

Though Tang has declined in popularity here in the United States, the same may not be true elsewhere. As of 2019 Tang was available in around 35 countries. Local flavors have been added to the brand's portfolio like mango and guyabano. And who knows? With the discovery of water on the moon, maybe lunar bases will even have their own local Tang flavor someday.