The newest Mars lander Curiosity is (one hopes) about to land on the Red Planet. So the peanuts, which have gone along with successful space projects via the Jet propulsion Lab in California, go hand in hand with same.
"The tradition of the peanuts at JPL goes way back to the 1960s and goes all the way back to the very first missions we sent to the moon," MSL flight director David Oh told collectSPACE.com from his mission control room console on Saturday. "We had seven [robotic] attempts to go the moon before we succeeded, and on that seventh one they had passed out peanuts in the control room."
Ranger 7, which in July 1964 became the first U.S. space probe to successfully transmit close images of the moon's surface back to Earth, made the peanuts into a tradition.
"So ever since then, it has been a long standing tradition to hand out peanuts whenever we launch, whenever we do anything important like land on Mars," Oh said. "We can use all the luck we can get."