Friday, March 23, 2007

TANG, The "Space Age" Drink

Tang was trademarked in 1957 (U.S. Patent & Trademark Office registration #1974439) and introduced to the American public in 1959. It was invented as a modern breakfast beverage, not commissioned by the U.S. space program. It was, however, the space program that made Tang a household name. In 1965 the Gemini astronauts took this drink into outer space.

"Tang, made by General Foods, is a sweetened drink powder artificially colored and flavored orange. It is one of America's most celebrated chemically created foods...Tang went to space on the Gemini and Apollo missions. The mix was delivered to the astronauts in silver pouches. When water was added, the pouches yielded a sweet, slightly tangy orange-flavored drink that provided the entire day's worth of Vitamin C. By the first Gemini flight in 1965, Tang has been languishing on supermarket shelves for six years. The General Foods dubbed it "the drink of the astronauts," and the new Tang, with a prominent picutre of a launch pad on the outside of the canister, soon was rocketing upward in sales and consumption...At the peak of popularity of Tang in the 1960s and 1970s, American households consumed the "instant breakfast" on a regular basis."
---Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith editor [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2004, Volume 2 (p. 527-8)

"For the record, the drink's origin had nothing to do with the space program. It was developed by General Foods in 1957, 12 years before man would set foot on the lunar surface. But the Vitamin C-filled drink is indelibly tied with outer space, largely because it has been used by astronauts since the Gemini flights of 1965 - and because of advertising. "Tang Takes Off" bleats a 1965 General Foods newsletter that describes the elaborate efforts to craft commercials tied to the Gemini flights. Later commercials and ad promotions - from moon maps sent to thousands of schools to lunar module replicas on 18-ounce Tang jars - would reinforce the Tang-Space connection for years. Once widely popular, Tang is no longer the major player it once was. "Its sales are not now what they were then," said Nancy Redmond, a spokeswoman for Kraft General Foods. She attributed that mainly to changes in consumer tastes and the availability of other drinks. Still, Redmond said, "Tang has its dedicated users." It's also now available in mango flavor and sugar-free orange. Plastic containers have replaced the old glass jars. And Tang is still used regularly in space. "
---"SPACE-TANG CONTINUUM; ONE GIANT LEAP," JULY 20, 1969 News & Record (Greensboro, NC), July 20, 1994 (p. D1)

"Tang is yesterday's drink of tomorrow. Introduced by General Foods in 1959 as a "breakfast beverage" made by mixing water with a spoonful of what the manufacturer called "aromatic, orangy-tasting powder," (loaded with vitamins A and C, as well as tricalcium phosphate), pleasant smelling ("like oranges, but with a flavor all its own"), long--lasting in its jar on the shelf, and, most wonderful of all, modern. To serve Tang for breakfast instead of orange juice was to say you were riding high on the wave of progress...To understand Tang's appeal some thirty years ago, it is necessary to remember that most Americans, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, put their faith in the march of progress. From the end of World War II until the 1970s, a lot of people honestly believed that the world was simply getting better and better, mostly because science and industry kept creating great new products and evermore convenient ways of living. ..when Tang was first marketed across the United States (and as "Sun Up" in Canada), General Foods was still predicting a dazzlingly modern future menu of scientifically reconstituted foodstuffs...It hadn't been easy to create a powdered breakfast beverage rich with the attributes of real fruit, the introductory articles in May 1959 [issue of General Food's Monsanto Magazine] explained. Among the obstacles faced by scientists at the Post Division of General Foods were betting stable, water-soluble forms of vitamin A into the powder, finding just the right semiopaque orange additive...and finding a way to keep the powder from caking in the jar. When it came time to package Tang, marketing people took an unusual step (for 1959) and created a label that actually told consumers what nutritional value they would get in every glassful of Tang...Tang made the leap from convenience food to pop culture in 1965 when it was taken on board the space capsules Gemini IV (June 7) and Gemini V (August 21) as part of the astronauts' nutritionally balanced food supply..."
---Encyclopedia of Pop Culture, Jane & Michael Stern [Harper Perennial:New York] 1992 (p. 505-507)

The Tang brand is currently owned by Kraft Foods. It is available in more than thirty flavors (some region-specific), and is sold both in powdered form (in sachets and larger canisters) and in a ready to drink sachet. A single 8 oz serving of Tang provides 92 calories, 60 mg of vitamin C (100% RDA), and no caffeine. Kraft also makes a sugar-free version of Tang, containing aspartame, which comes in individually-measured packets and was introduced in March 1985.

Tang usually comes in a plastic container with a screw-on lid that makes six quarts. A larger nine-quart container (898 grams) is available. Tang is also available in larger institutional sizes.

The recommended usage is two tablespoons per 8 ounces of water. The lid on the plastic container also acts as a measuring cup which may be used to make one or two quart quantities.

Tang now comes in smaller, more concentrated mixes. The new containers are 12.3 oz (348g) and make 8 quarts. The recommended usage is two and a half teaspoons per 8 ounces of water.

Tang is now not only more concentrated, it also contains artificial sweeteners listed as Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, and Neotame

The story of how and why Tang was used by the NASA Gemini space program is best explained by a NASA engineer involved with working on the Gemini Space Program on the life-support module. (Paraphrased below in italics.)
"... There was a particular component of the Gemini life support-system module which produced H20 (water) among other things. This was a byproduct of a reoccurring chemical reaction of one of the mechanical devices on the life-support module. The astronauts would use this water to drink during their space flight. The problem was, the Astronauts did not like the taste of the water because of some of the byproducts produced, which were not harmful of course. So, they added Tang to make the water taste better ..."

One recipe for making Tang is to heat it, as one would make hot chocolate.
An often heard household tip says Tang is an excellent dishwasher cleaning agent due to its high citric acid content. Although Kraft does not recommend it, they also do not advocate against this use. Their web site says:
"We have heard that some consumers have used TANG Drink Mix to clean their dishwashers. TANG does contain citric acid which can act as cleaning agent. TANG Drink mix is intended to be a food product and Kraft Foods does not advocate its use for any other purpose."[1]
At one time, Philadelphia authorities attempted to deter addicts from misusing doses of methadone by packaging it in combination with Tang[2]; this was carried out under the reasoning that nobody would be foolish enough to intravenously inject the combination. This was not the case [2]. There was also at least one reported case of accidental methadone overdose from family members who found a jar of mixed Tang in the refrigerator. [3]
The inventor of Tang, William A. Mitchell, also invented Pop Rocks, Jell-O, and Cool Whip.
Several US presidents have been known to enjoy Tang, including Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

On Married with Children, members of the Bundy family in one episode made "Tang sandwiches". If there were not enough for a sandwich, they would have "Tang wipe" (a slice of bread wiped in the jar to absorb the residual Tang).
Again on Married... with Children, Bud is caught by his dad serving Tang and Girly Girl Beer, dubbing it a Bundy Mimosa
On an episode of the 1993 cartoon series 2 Stupid Dogs, the two dogs wander into a spaceship looking for a block of ice cream. Another spaceship has an astronaut and a monkey inside, and the monkey says, "I think you've been drinking too much Tang."
In the movie The Coneheads the two aliens mention Tang being the drink that the astronauts take to the moon, then laugh about humans going to the moon.
In an episode of That 70's Show, aspiring astronaut Michael Kelso remarks "Girls must really love astronauts: it says here they get all the Tang they want!"
In another episode of That 70's Show, Eric Forman's mother makes him "sausage and Tang" for breakfast. Eric comments that "sausage and Tang" is a bit racy for breakfast. Not getting the joke, his mother becomes confused and makes the comment "growing boys need Tang", still unaware of its meaning.
In the Simpsons episode "Deep Space Homer" Homer rings NASA and President Clinton looking for some Tang.
Courtesy of Wikipedia

No comments: