Many human-made objects have been placed in space, including this comprehensive list of items that remain on the moon. None of these items retain quite the drama or personal impact as the wedding ring that was lost — and found — in the vacuum of space.
It was 1972. Apollo 16 was in its second day of an 11-day mission to the moon and back. Astronaut Ken Mattingly slipped off his wedding ring as he tended to some routine duties. When he reached for it moments later, it was gone. Mattingly searched frantically for the beloved ring, but despite his best efforts, he was unable to locate it. Mattingly enlisted the help of his crewmates. Charles “Charlie” Moss Duke, Jr. was one of the astronauts who helped Mattingly comb through the interior of the spacecraft. “It just floated off somewhere, and none of us could find it,” Duke said.
One week after the ring disappeared, Mattingly and Duke left the vehicle for a spacewalk. The astronauts tried to block out the breathtaking view of space, earth, and the moon so they could focus on their duties. In the midst of all of this, something caught Duke’s eye. He looked and saw the elusive wedding ring floating out of the hatch door. He reached for it, but he was unable to grab it. Instead, the ring went flying away, apparently lost forever in the endless reaches of outer space.
Then, miraculously, Duke watched as the ring did something incredible. As if drawn to its rightful owner, the ring’s trajectory sent it on a straight path toward Mattingly. He was busy with his duties and was unaware of the approaching jewelry. The ring bounced off the back of Mattingly’s helmet, reversing its course, and sending it right back toward Duke. This time, Duke was able to grab the ring and return it to an astonished and grateful Mattingly.
We don’t know if Ken Mattingly ever told his wife that the evidence of their love was written in the stars, but the symbol of their marriage certainly had a special connection with astrophysics.
Read more fun facts about astronauts.
Read more fun facts about marriage.