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The sign in NASA’s clean room was clear. Do not touch this important piece of space equipment. And when NASA asks you not to touch something in a sterile room, it’s probably best to heed its request.
But Mike Pence is vice president, as well as chairman of the National Space Council, which guides U.S. space policy, so maybe that means he doesn’t have to respect NASA’s rules? Because while he was touring a NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Pence touched an important piece of space equipment—despite a very explicit sign.
Then he almost instantly became a meme.
Pence probably took inspiration from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’s Grandpa Joe, who was explicitly told not to imbibe the fizzy-lifting drink, but did so anyway. People hate Grandpa Joe to this day for that decision, and on Friday, people were hating on Pence’s inability to follow the simplest of directions.
Here’s how it started.
Suddenly I understand why he won't have dinner with a woman who isn't his wife. pic.twitter.com/Vk2BLDRadR— shauna (@goldengateblond) July 7, 2017
i couldn't help myself. pic.twitter.com/AxdVtF9HIP— Citrine (@Melangetic) July 7, 2017
U can't touch th—HEY WHAT THE HELL MIKE pic.twitter.com/PQluMoc0YW— Peter Durfee (@Durf) July 7, 2017
Of course, one of Trump’s signature moments had to be included.
I just wanted to be a part of that moment all right pic.twitter.com/MZWo6m2I9N— Peter Durfee (@Durf) July 7, 2017
As for why NASA thinks a clean room is important, it’s “because even a slight contaminant can create problems inside a capsule” and “It may not sound like a big deal for something that will be exposed to space, but an earthly bit of pollen or sand or even a human hair can confuse a star tracker, lead to a build up around an exhaust port, or block a thruster, for example.”
Update 3:30pm CT: According to a NASA spokesperson, Pence didn’t do anything wrong.
“The signs are there as a day-to-day reminder, including the one visible on the titanium Forward Bay Cover for the Orion spacecraft,” Jen Rae Wang wrote in an email to the Daily Dot. “Procedures require the hardware to be cleaned before tiles are bonded to the spacecraft, so touching the surface is absolutely okay. Otherwise, the hardware would have had a protective cover over it like the thermal heat shield, which was nearby.”
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.