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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

On This Day in Science History - October 21 - William Mitchell, Pop Rocks and Tang

By October 20, 2012

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October 21st is William A. Mitchell's birthday. Mitchell was a food chemist for the General Foods Corporation and the inventor of products like Pop Rocks and the orange drink Tang.

Pop Rocks were the center of an urban legend in which Mikey from the Life cereal commercials died when he ate the candy and washed it down with a cola, making his stomach explode. General Foods countered the claims with an ad campaign in 45 major publications and 50,000 letters to school principals. Mitchell toured the country to show people that Pop Rocks weren't dangerous.

Tang was originally sold as a powdered breakfast drink in 1959, but nobody really drank it. It wasn't until 1965 when NASA needed something to hide the "nasty" taste of the water produced by the life support systems during the Gemini missions. They turned to Tang as the solution. General Foods started marketing Tang as the drink the astronauts use in space and sales took off. The difference in sales led most people to believe Tang was developed for the space program.

Find out what else occurred on this day in science history.


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