The Real Reason M&M's Are So Popular With Astronauts

Is there a more portable, poppable chocolate candy than M&M's? To our nation's astronauts floating weightless in space, there is apparently no better dessert choice than these colorfully coated confections.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, M&M's are "the most common form of chocolate flown today" by NASA, and have been since the beginning of the space shuttle program. When astronauts report to work at their office aboard the International Space Station, M&M's are pretty much a menu fixture. They're not transported in the brown wrapping with which most people are familiar, either, but rather in "clear, nondescript packaging" more appropriate for a spacecraft orbiting the earth.

M&M's are prized by astronauts for several reasons, including having properties that make them a convenient space food, such as being bite-sized and less prone to crumbling than other chocolate candies. If you've ever seen "The Simpsons" episode "Deep Space Homer," in which a bumbling astronaut Homer carelessly opens a bag of potato chips and causes an emergency, you would know that renegade crumbs are bad news in space. M&M's are so tiny they essentially resist breaking apart into smaller pieces that could wreak havoc (or at the very least make a minor mess).

Catch in your mouth not in your hand

M&M's aren't just valued for their handy snack benefits, they also serve as entertainment for bored astronauts. In an interview with Smithsonian Magazine, Robert Pearlman, editor of the space history and artifacts website noted, "Astronauts will often release handfuls of them and catch them with their mouths as the pieces float around." Playing space toss with M&M's may sound fun, but unless you have access to a safe, strictly monitored laboratory environment where you can simulate the experience of weightlessness, please don't try this at home, kids. And speaking of nerds (not the candy), astronauts have even used M&M's to demonstrate scientific concepts like microgravity in educational videos for students.

M&M's have been around longer than the space program, and for all the reasons cited above they're likely not going away anytime soon as an astronaut fan favorite. So, wouldn't it just be fitting if a candy founded by a man with the surname Mars (and who, according to the New York Times, possessed an astronomical temper) accompanied a future mission to the Red Planet?