Space, the Final Smuggling Frontier

In a glimpse of a gloriously rule-breaking future, contraband has boldly gone where more is sure to follow.


On Christmas day, we learned that the ashes of James Doohan, the actor who played Scotty in the original Star Trek series and several movies, were surreptitiously brought to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2008. For fans of the classic science fiction franchise, it was a fitting extraterrestrial resting place for the man who played a beloved character. For those with dreams of a free life beyond Earth's gravity, though, it was also a hint that the roguish spirit of Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds has already taken root in humanity's ventures into space.

"Now it can be revealed that in death the actor who played the starship's chief engineer has travelled nearly 1.7 billion miles through space, orbiting Earth more than 70,000 times, after his ashes were hidden secretly on the International Space Station," the Times of London reported on December 25. "'It was completely clandestine,' said Richard Garriott, a video game entrepreneur who smuggled James Doohan's ashes on to the ISS in 2008 during a 12-day mission as a private astronaut."

Garriott, who stashed a laminated card containing some of Doohan's ashes in the ISS's Columbus module at the request of the actor's son, Chris, makes another appearance in space smuggling lore. The video game entrepreneur, who paid a reported $30 million to fly in a Soyuz capsule to the ISS, passed along gossip he'd picked up about cosmonauts transporting unapproved items into space.

"One of the historically common methods of taking a few extra personal items on board was on Soyuz, when you would be driving out to the launch pad where—starting with Gagarin—he stopped to unzip his space suit to urinate on the back tire of the bus," Garriott told Chris Carberry, author of the 2019 book, Alcohol in Space: Past, Present and Future. "As it turns out, it was also an opportunity to push something inside your spacesuit at the last minute."

We're talking about Russian cosmonauts here but, surprisingly, the illicit orbital beverage of choice wasn't vodka. "Cognac became the preferred drink for cosmonauts," noted Carberry in his book. "And they devised clever and elaborate methods for smuggling this contraband on board space missions."

Not only did the cosmonauts shove flasks of cognac into their space suits, but they also hollowed out books and hid bottles inside. Since weight is strictly regulated on space flights, some enterprising types starved themselves in the final week before launch to offset the mass of the contraband. They apparently offset a lot of mass.

"The occurrences of alcohol smuggling were so frequent that subsequent crews would often find bottles hidden in space suits, behind panels, and in other locations," Carberry observes of the various Soviet/Russian space station missions.

The U.S. space program has also enjoyed incidents of illicit transport into space dating back to the earliest days of manned missions. In orbit in 1962, Wally Schirra discovered an unapproved gift in his capsule, courtesy of fellow astronaut Gordon Cooper. "A trimmed-down Tareyton pack held four cigarettes, but that was not the only bit of contraband to go into the little hiding place, because there was also a miniature bottle of scotch whiskey," according to Colin Burgess's 2016 book, Sigma 7: The Six Mercury Orbits of Walter M. Schirra, Jr.

Unsurprisingly, given the unappealing quality of most space rations, food features in the history of extraterrestrial contraband. Don Arabian, head of the test division at the Manned Spacecraft Center, reportedly "lost the will to live" after spending three days eating the food given to Apollo astronauts. A proposal to let space travelers drink sherry in orbit as a morale-booster was, unfortunately, shut down for public relations reasons. But astronauts had already dabbled with their own solutions to unpalatable fare. According to the National Air and Space Museum:

The (sanctioned) Gemini meal packages included a freeze-dried entree, vegetable, drink and dessert, protected with a 4-ply, laminated film coating. [Astronaut John] Young, it seemed, wasn't interested in the freeze-dried option, so he brought something else on board. As he admitted to Life, 'I hid a sandwich in my spacesuit.'

According to Young, his contraband corned-beef sandwich was thanks to astronaut Wally Schirra, who had it prepared at a restaurant in Cocoa Beach before Gemini 3 launched.

The smuggled sandwich caper actually caused a congressional fuss, prompting (probably empty) assurances from NASA that it would never occur again. A replica of the forbidden meal is preserved at the Grissom Memorial Museum in Mitchell, Indiana (Gus Grissom accompanied Young on the mission).

Admittedly, none of these incidents rise, so far, to the rule-breaking standards set by fictional smugglers in the likes of Star Wars and Firefly. We have yet to see the equivalent of the hidden compartments installed by Han Solo and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon, or by Malcolm Reynolds and Zoe Washburne in the Serenity. And professional smuggling remains a matter for fiction, though there must be terrestrial practitioners contemplating out-of-this-world opportunities. But we're in early days for space travel and smuggling efforts will have to grow along with the ventures across a new frontier.

What we are seeing in abundance is the human eagerness to defy rules in order to have access to forbidden goods. Manned space missions might remain limited in number, government-dominated, and heavily regulated, but people have already found the will and the means to smuggle contraband past the authorities. Can you imagine what space travel will look like when competing private companies regularly carry thousands of passengers who want what they want no matter the whims of the powers that be?

So, hoist a drink—legal or otherwise—to Richard Garriott, rule-breaking space traveler. He not only found an appropriate resting place for an actor who portrayed a popular science fiction character, he also boldly went where extraterrestrial smugglers have already gone, and those of the future are sure to follow.

NEXT: To Continue Thriving, California Needs New Politicians

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  1. Just wait 'til the White Establishment founds the New Alabama colony on Mars, so they can smuggle some slaves and continue the Great Plan started in 1619. Or was that 1492?

    1. “Sheets made from Mars cotton, they are out of this world!”


        1. In this thread, sarcasKnight shitposts as several of his socks again

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      2. I guess no one at reason is even going to mention Trump vetoing the defense bill and the senate overriding his veto? Trump has been trying to keep the US out of wars as promised, and not a single damn socialist writer here at reason is going to mention the libertarianness of Trump?


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    2. It was more 1619.

      African slavery was started by the Portuguese in 1526. And it took the American South a long time to build up a culture in which people stopped feeling guilty about slavery and started looking at it as a way of proving Christian lives to the inferior race:

      1. Or was it more like 10,000 BC on pretty much every continent, where people made slaves out of "others"?

        Or was USA slavery "exceptional"?

        1. It was different. It was the first time an entire society convinced itself that chattel slavery was a moral service to the people being enslaved.

          Check out the Econtalk episode. It is fascinating.

          1. Aristotle was arguing that in his book "Politics" almost 2000 years prior to 1619:

            "those who are as different [from other men] as the soul from the body or man from beast—and they are in this state if their work is the use of the body, and if this is the best that can come from them—are slaves by nature. For them it is better to be ruled in accordance with this sort of benevolent rule, if such is the case for the other things mentioned."

            These arguments influenced the Greek, Roman/Byzantine and even the Islamic and triangular slave trade millennia after.

            The concept was called natural slavery:
            And this was the source of the justification for American slavery.

            To claim that the Triangular Trade was first time an entire society convinced itself that chattel slavery was a moral service to the people being enslaved, is not only ahistorical nonsense, it's ridiculous gaslighting.

            1. Go listen to the Econtalk episode and learn a few things instead of trying to show me up. Learn something.

              I’m sure they used Aristotle in their arguments when transforming American Southern culture.

              1. Go listen to the Econtalk episode...

                I'm sure he'll go with willful ignorance before admitting that you have a point.

                1. Go fuck your hats you historically illiterate clowns.

                  The rationale your garbage glorified-Ted-Talk is claiming sprang out of the seventeenth century was already written out as the basis for slavery 2000 years earlier, and was held by every civilization since.

                  If you had a basic education outside of Voxsplainers and hysterical NYT supplements, you are wouldn't have fallen for it.

                  1. Shorter Bitch's Bitching: "I've got nothing to learn from you or anyone else! Lalalala my fingers are in my ears lalalala I know everything you're stupid lalalalalaaaaaa!"

                    1. "sarcasmic
                      January.1.2021 at 6:28 pm
                      Shorter Bitch’s Bitching"

                      Funny, if you know that why do you still bitch? Bitch.

              2. "Go listen to the Econtalk episode"

                Why? I'm extremely well read on the subject.

                1. Don’t believe you. If you were curious enough about the topic to be well-read, you would want to know what Professor Munger has to say.

                  1. "you would want to know what Professor Munger has to say"

                    Not by how you have presented it. You have inferred it is a well known false narrative.

          2. You can't explain Roman slavery, can you?

            They fucking fed them to lions for fun. They made them into sex slaves. Chattel slavery vastly more brutal than Southern slavery. (as bad as Southern slavery was, treating captive humans like shit is pretty common throughout history) You should learn that.

        2. Most slavery in the past consisted of people who were conquered, and they were considered to be people. USA slavery was different in that it was racial and those enslaved were considered subhuman. That attitude persists with racial quotas and other efforts to give a head start to races viewed as inferior. Now if you're one of those assholes who wants to treat all races equally then you're a filthy racist.

          1. "USA slavery was different in that it was racial and those enslaved were considered subhuman."

            The fascinating story told in the Econtalk episode above is that it took decades of deliberate effort to sell Southern society on black people being subhuman and that it was the white man's Christian duty to improve their subhuman lives by enslaving them.

            1. The Econtalk episode is nonsense. The widely prevalent Ancient Greek concept of "Natural Slavery" was all about superior races saving inferior ones from themselves by enslaving them.

              It is impossible for the creators of the Econtalk not to know about "Natural Slavery" and its influence, so I can only conclude that it's a deliberate attempt to gaslight low information morons.

              1. The entire social system around chattel slavery of African people in the American South did not form because they were reading Aristotle. I can tell you didn’t listen to it or read the transcript.

                1. The transcript was a dishonest nonsense, and the philosophy of Natural Slavery is exactly where the justification for chattel slavery of African people in the American South came from.

                  Your claim and your programs claim isn't just ridiculous, it's willfully ignorant and purposefully dishonest.

                2. Yup, I just had time to check through the transcript and Aristotle comes up in the conversation. Of course, you don't know that because you didn't listen to the podcast nor look at the transcript.

                  1. Fufk off sarcasmic

              2. Context matters. They weren't talking about ancient Greeks; they were talking about contemporary Europe. Which means that your attempt at intellectual superiority doesn't negate anything they said.

                1. If you don't understand the importance of Greek philosophy on post-renaissance European thought, then even your community college failed you.
                  Until the 1950's you couldn't even earn a bachelors degree in anything without being able to read Greek, and every primary school student was taught Latin and Greek until the 30's.
                  In the sixteenth and seventeenth century English-speaking world Aristotle was the basis for almost all science.

                  I understand now that your progressivism comes from a deep historical ignorance of anything that happened before WWII.

                  1. If you didn't notice, I used the pronoun "they" as in what the economists were saying. What you imagine about my education and politics (all wrong by the way) has no bearing on what they said.

                    1. Lol @ you not caring about this

                2. "Context matters"

                  Ok then you should stop calling it "USA slavery" because it was actually England, Spain, France et al.

                  1. American colonies vs the rest of the world. If you're going to insult me, get it right. Loser.

                    1. "American colonies vs the rest of the world."

                      Those "American colonies" were part of France, Portugal and the like.

                    2. American colonies

                      We don't assign responsibility to the colonies when the colonizers are the ones who implemented the systems.

                  2. I didn't insult you...

                    Are you well?

                    1. Sarcasmic has an embarrassing persecution complex. You saw it on display there.

                    2. Fuck off, Tulpa.

                    3. "sarcasmic
                      January.1.2021 at 6:35 pm
                      Fuck off, Tulpa."

                      White Knight is mad!!! Is stupid attempt to discuss something well beyond his educational level has made him look like a moron once again

                    4. You're not going to apologize for attacking me for no reason are you sarcasmic?

                    5. You have a better chance of getting him to stop imbibing then getting an apology from him.

                      Relish the fact that you ruined his weekend and he'll be shitposting all weekend trying to relieve his embarrassment.

      2. The Romans, the Greeks before them, the Egyptians before them, and the Africans themselves first of all, enslaved Africans. Only wilfully blind fools are afraid to see the truth.

        1. Those were different from American chattel slavery, though. In those ancient societies, the slave was not considered an inferior or different type of person, but just someone who happened to lose, often at war. It wasn’t uncommon for them to earn their freedom or be freed at some point, and join society.

          1. Oh great. Now come the "You let the sock slip" retarded comments.

            1. Yes, the only possible way we can have similar thoughts is if we are sock puppets of each other.

              1. No, it just happens to be true.

                1. Some commenters here seem especially harsh towards a select few for reasons I don’t fully understand. While sarcasmic and I have had our differences in the past (reasons for which I’m not fully sure why) s/he and The White Knight are fully correct here. I don’t see why you people are unable to have a reasonable conversation without resorting to childish name calling. Let’s grow up and talk things out like adults, and if we reach an impasse, fine, but until then I say we all show each other some respect. Deal?

                  1. God your fake shit is boring

                    1. f**k you.

                    2. You're gonna have to wait til your momma is done.

          2. Yeah, well the Roman's didn't have much respect for people in general, slave or free. There are mines that the Roman slaves dug, hundreds of feet deep, that needed to be constantly pumped out, by slaves walking on giant water wheels, in the heat and dark. Slaves given that job lived about two days. And the sexual abuses was horrible.
            Slaves were not treated well by the Roman's. There was nothing uniquely worse about American slavery, except in the minds of those who insist that America is uniquely bad.

            1. True, but there was something new under the sun with chattel slavery of black people. The idea that black people were fundamentally different from and inferior to white people had to be sold to the public.

              1. All ancient people thought they were uniquely better than their neighbors. The concept of "race" used to be by nation -- the English race, the Germanic race, the Latin race, the Spanish race, the Egyptian race, on and on.

                There was nothing new with enslaving blacks, or buying and selling them. Slave markets have existed since there were slaves.

                US slavery was nothing unusual.

                1. Like I said above, context matters. We (WK and me, I don't do Econtalk often but I did listen to Sowell talk about the subject) are not talking about ancient history. Europe was a melting pot at the time, so there was a lot more racial equality than you might think. Slaves were mostly spoils of war.

                  1. How convenient to ignore the history that refutes your argument!

                  2. "We (WK and me"

                    Are the same person.

                2. We're talking about slavery from the point of view of some economists. I believe their central point was that while trade was bringing the world together and easing racial enmity, the South was an outlier doing the opposite.

                  1. That's nonsense. Europe has always been a melting pot, going back ten thousand years when farmers drifted in from Asia, and slaves have always been a part of that, whether captured from wars or bought and sold.

                    1. Whatever. Take it up with the economists. You're obviously more invested in this than me.

                    2. You're literally still crying at people who point out how laughably wrong you are SQRLSY

          3. That's not even remotely true White Knight for reasons I've given above.

            1. Yes, you made a very good point that Aristotle wrote about the inferiority of slaves. You make too much of that point because you have personal enmity against me so you don’t want to admit the Econtalk episode is interesting.

              1. You seem to insist on US black slavery as being uniquely evil. It wasn't. You need to admit that before slandering others for what they won't admit.

                1. That's not the point. The point was that US black slavery was different than other slavery at the time in that it was purely racial and treated the enslaved as subhuman, while other slavery around the world at the time still considered the enslaved people to be people.

                  1. Again, ignoring all the rest of the world and all of the rest of history does not prove your point.

                    "2.9999 + 2.9999" equals 4 if you ignore the evil digits to the right; remember, the ancients had no way of representing fractional digits like that, so we can just do whatever we want.

                  2. "The point was that US black slavery was different than other slavery at the time"

                    But it wasn't.
                    The Mamluks had sub-Saharans picking cotton in the Nile delta as chattel, the Llamas had Nangzan and Ragyabpa farming rough, the Bhutanese held Duars and Mechi as beasts of Burden, and Portuguese ran West African slaves in Brazil on a massive scale and the cane plantations in Haiti and Cuba made antebellum plantations look like holiday camps. And that's not even to get into the Boyars and their Kholop and Muzhik.

                    The US was in no way unique. All those cases were organized chattel slavery, vital to national trade and occurring in the same period.

                    Try reading up about the Belgian Congo, the Barbary slave trade and the nobi system in Korea, as part of a basic education on the issues.

                    1. Looks to me like you just did a few google searches and strung together a bunch of results to present the false appearance of a previous education on the subject.

                    2. Why are you narrating your own posts?

                      And I thought you didn't care?

                2. No, not uniquely evil. The interesting thing is that the culture and beliefs of the South had to be changed to be not just comfortable but proud of slavery, and it took quite some time to sell that social change.

                  1. No. Nothing new was necessary.

                  2. This is factually incorrect, and easily provable. Your podconomists are simply fabricating things.

              2. "because you have personal enmity against me

                Yes. Because you do nothing but shitpost, gaslight and lie. To be quite honest I find you disgusting and repellent.

                1. The only posts here that are disgusting and repellant come from you and the others who justify your nastiness with straw man arguments against what you imagine about the education, politics and personal history of those you attack.

                  1. You literally just cried a guy who in no way insulted you and whined that he was a "loser" because he refuted your poorly developed argument.

                    1. Leave sarcasmic alone, he’s literally done nothing to you people.

          4. Are you fucking insane? They were absolutely considered inferior and only property. You are so profoundly ignorant that I plead with you to pick up a fucking history book and actually read it. WOW!

      3. "And it took the American South a long time to build up a culture in which people stopped feeling guilty "

        This is ahistorical stupidity. One look at South American slavery and it becomes clear to anyone.

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  2. Space cowboys will start becoming supplemented by space coyotes as well! Entire intelligent beings will be smuggled back to Earth!

    Democrat-leaning astronauts will smuggle in lizard people, who, as we KNOW damned well, now, from still-ongoing electoral spats, have a STRONG tendency to use mind-control beams, and FORCE voters, against their will, to vote against Der TrumpfenFuhrer!

    Republican-leaning astronauts will smuggle in Amphibian People, who tend to use Mind-Control beams to make voters FOR Trump.

    Before we get a flurry of posts here from xenophobic Trumpistas slamming even the idea of space coyotes smuggling in pro-“R”-party Amphibian People illegal immigrants… “R” fanatics saying that ALL immigration is UTTERLY EVIL… Let me point out to you, that the Amphibian People ARE indeed “benevolent”, per the “R”-Party yardstick (“R” good, all other parties BAD!).

    Let me give you a VERY prominent Amphibian Person with the CORRECT thoughts and attitudes! I give you Pepe the Amphibian Person, stolen-IP-4Chan-Frog! Racist frog, NAZI frog, yaya-yada!

    1. President Donald Trump, Jr. will build a Great Planetary Shield!

    2. It's like a bad episode of Doctor Who.

      1. Have there been any good ones recently? I watched the first couple of DVDs from Netflix of the new She-Doctor, and it was like they were trying to go all SJW, far more than usual, just to prove a She-Doctor was justified. Haven't watched any since.

        The first four were awesome. That damn fool of a new producer ruined Tom Baker's last season and the show has never recovered. Takes itself way too damned seriously to leave any room for fun.

        1. For the most part I like the BBC reboot. The budgets in the beginning were pretty small, at least that's my take being that the effects were downright embarrassing. I must say Smith gives Baker a run for his money as the best Doctor. I know that's blasphemy, but Baker didn't have Weeping Angels or The Silence either.

  3. Do you think there might be a planet out there where that comment would be actually regarded as funny?

  4. Don Arabian, head of the test division at the Manned Spacecraft Center, reportedly "lost the will to live" after spending three days eating the food given to Apollo astronauts.

    Next time you hear one of your fellow astronauts say, "I'd kill for a corned beef sandwich", you might want to keep a closer eye on him. If they don't care if they live or die, they probably care even less whether you live or die.

    1. Food is of course a big issue in space. Col. Ilan Ramon the Israeli who died in the Columbia disaster asked for kosher food. NASA found it for him.

      He also asked the rabbis when he should mark the sabbath since it goes by the sun on earth. The rabbis discussed and decided it should be from whence he took off at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

      Human beings were meant to explore. Both on the planet and off. Go and if you do not find it there look elsewhere. Keep looking.

  5. No need to panic,' China official says of coronavirus variants
    Someone is going to disappear soon.

  6. I note that most of your examples were from the Apollo/Gemini era, when astronauts were typically military test pilots, already noted for their rowdy behavior.

    These days, most astronauts are scientists, who for the most part are generally good little socialists who follow the rules. It's doubtful Mal Reynolds will be appearing at a space station near you at anytime soon.

    1. More likely it's because the old stories can come out now and not embarrass any living people, or get any living people in trouble.

    2. These days, perhaps, but longterm, it's going to be the Mal Reynoldses and Han Solos and (forgive me for mentioning the biggest rent-seeker of all time) Elon Musks who actually move us off-planet.

  7. I'm surprised the Mercury flight with Grissom wasn't mentioned. Or was that a Tom Wolfe myth?

  8. Found out this past Christmas? I knew in 2008 that Scotty's ashes were in space. It was common knowledge in the USAF.

    1. Not that they were in space. That was widely covered in the news at the time he died.

      That some of the ashes are on the ISS.

  9. It's too bad Great Britain didn't win the space race. Astronauts would be given a daily rum ration.

  10. "Can you imagine what space travel will look like when competing private companies regularly carry thousands of passengers who want what they want no matter the whims of the powers that be?"

    You mean like air travel? That hotbed of government flaunting, anarcho-capitalist private travel?

    What an absolutely stupid fscking article. Reason needs to regrow some Libertarian balls.

  11. What a waste of mass! A gram of Sandoz could space out 5000 astronauts.

  12. Yeah, but the Hutts will have a monopoly on it. Until the most successful Hutt is choked to death by his sex slave. At which time, space smuggling will be thrown into chaos until a clone, who supposedly died in the Sarlak pit returns and takes over the Hutts fractured kingdom.

    Also, do we have to watch out for Reapers also?

    1. Also, will Jewel Staite, Summer Glau and Morena Baccarin be there? If so sign me up.

      1. I googled them plus "nude" and "leaked". Whew I agree sign me up.

    2. Mandalorian is what Star Wars should have been!
      And the Empire did nothing wrong

  13. Is that picture from "maneater" or "the gorn" episode?

    1. I think that's siegfried and roy.

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  15. The stories about alcohol smuggling are amusing. One thing that armies and navies learned early is that it better to control alcohol rather than ban it. I remember a tour of the Miller brewery years ago when the tour guide pointed to a large area filled with 3.2 beer for the US Army. The guide noted the bear was specifically requested to have a lower alcohol content. Likewise I remember a tour guide on a tall ship explaining grog a rum mixture given to the crew. The rum mix would spoil if not drunken that day. Grog was given rather than strait rum to avoid hoarding and then drinking until intoxicated. NASA might learn something from this.

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  17. Alcohol prohibition in space is not complete, or at least, has not always been.

    After securing the Mir when a robot freighter crashed into it, nearly trashing the whole shebang, the cosmonauts were instructed to each have two shots of vodka.

    It's mostly an American thing to get so uptight about booze in space, or other scientific expeditions. German oceanographic research vessels still have afternoon "tea" which included beer.

    And even in the US, until the 1990's IIRC, NSF funded oceanographic ships still permitted alcohol consumption. (And cigars on the afterdeck were still an evening ritual at least until 2001.)

    People like a drink, and high stress, or celebrations of a job well done, merit one, whether uptight politicians like it or not.

  18. Everything we hairless apes do on Earth will be done I. Space.
    There will be space pirates stealing valuables, and eventually space war

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