Tang: The Orange Drink That Got Its Start From NASA

The year is 1962. President John F. Kennedy is speaking on the radio, excited to announce John Glenn has just become the first American to orbit the Earth aboard the Friendship 7. And with it, John Glen was the first American in Space to enjoy Tang drink mix and introduce the United States to new Space-age food.

What is Tang?

Invented in 1957 and marketed as a powdered drink mix in 1959, Tang orange drink mix wasn't popular at first. Food scientist William Mitchell of General Foods Corporation, the same man who invented Cool Whip, fast set Jell-o, and Pop Rocks, first created the orange juice substitute as a breakfast drink packed with vitamin C that was shelf-stable.

People weren't too crazy about the idea and Tang sat on the shelves until NASA realized that Tang orange powdered drink mix might be a solution to one of their problems; supplying astronauts with food and drink that would be able to handle space travel. Water on the spacecraft was created by a nontoxic chemical reaction, which made the water taste poor and unenjoyable. Adding the orange flavor made the water more palatable.

Did Astronauts Drink Tang?

The minute John Glenn's feet touched Earth, a delicious glass of Tang was the product every American wanted. While the soft drink wasn't invented specifically for Space Travel, General Foods hopped on the trend and continued to market themselves as a space-age product. NASA continued their relationship with Tang as well, serving it on several Gemini flights and space shuttle missions.

It found its way onto Apollo 11 where Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon drank it. However, years later Buzz shared his distaste of it. "Tang sucks," he shared during the taping of Spike TV's Guys Choice Awards in 2013.

Using Tang

While Powdered drink mixes like Tang, Kool-aid, Country Time Lemonade and Crystal Light can be mixed in cold water as is, powdered mixes can also be used in a variety of different recipes.

Russian Tea

Russian Tea
Lyndsay Burginger

It's not a Southern party without this steamy sweet tea.

Get the recipe here.

Orange Tang Chicken

Make Tang savory and add it to your chicken.

Get the recipe here.

Tang Loaf Cake

This drink works great in this quick bread recipe.

Get the recipe here.

Tang Today

Amazon

Once the trend of space-age food dwindled so did Tang. In the 1990s and 2000s, Tang revamped its marketing to feature an orangutan. In 2007, Kraft took out half of the sugar and replaced it with artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, acesulfame, potassium, and neotame. Like the original, a refreshing glass of Tang still packs the daily value vitamin C you need and it is a good source of calcium. And while that is true, it doesn't make this mix completely healthy for you. The first ingredient is sugar, followed by citric acid, ascorbic acid, maltodextrin, calcium phosphate, guar and xanthan gum, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and artificial colors yellow 6 and yellow 5.

While astronauts may not be mixing Tang from its canister anymore, there is one place in the world that helps keep the tart drink in business. According to the Tang fact sheet, over half of their annual sales come from the Middle East during the six weeks surrounding Ramadan.

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