Even Engineers have to eat sometime!
Sometimes some of our most beloved traditions can come from the most humble beginnings. One story that illustrates this fact concerns the postlaunch celebration of eating beans. In 1981, when the launch team was preparing for the launch of STS-1, folks would bring in covered dishes to share during prelaunch and postlaunch operations. Norm Carlson, NASA test director, was a willing participant in this activity.
On April 12, 1981, Mr. Carlson brought in to work a small crock pot of beans and some cornbread. After the first successful shuttle launch that morning, hungry team members quickly ate all the beans and cornbread.
Following up on his offering for STS-1, Mr. Carlson repeated the beans and cornbread for STS-2 on November 12, 1981, only this time he brought in two crock pots of beans. Again, the beans and cornbread quickly disappeared. On each subsequent launch, Mr. Carlson kept bringing more crock pots filled with beans, and on each subsequent launch the beans would disappear in short order.
Finally, sensing that it was getting too difficult to bring in enough crock pots to feed everyone, Mr. Carlson switched to an 18 quart cooker, and set up shop on the fourth floor of the LCC, just above the firing rooms. The call "Beans are Go!" came to signal that the shuttle had successfully launched, and it was time to relax and unwind.
The tradition continued to grow, and more cookers were added. As the photograph on the right shows, despite the size of the job of feeding crowds of hungry engineers and his critical role as test director, Mr. Carlson steadfastly fulfilled his duty as chief bean cook and server. Eventually, Mr. Carlson retired, and the job of preparing the beans and maintaining the cookers became an official NASA function. Today, no less than 12 cookers of beans, a total of 60 gallons worth, are prepared and offered to the launch crew after every launch.