Stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 1000 nautical miles from the nearest land, was Dava Newman, NASA’s deputy administrator, and her husband. They had lost control of their sailboat when they tried to sail around the world. They discovered a crack in the hydraulic system, and they couldn’t move at all due to this.

A similar occurrence happened in the aborted Apollo 13 mission, but the crew was able to return safely thanks to the knowledge and creativity of the engineers who came up with a way to return to Earth using only the materials on board the space capsule, which included Extra Virgin Olive Oil. In reference to this, Dava recalled that, “you have to be creative in times of crisis.”

Newman had bought four liters of extra virgin olive oil in Panama prior to the accident. As an engineer, she knew that olive oil had the same viscosity as hydraulic fluid. So they filled the system with olive oil, fastened the hose, set up a kind of IV system to capture and recycle the oil that was still dripping and sailed for more than a week to reach the Marquesas Islands.

In both cases EVOO saved the day, returning the crew home safe and sound.

That particular lesson on how to survive a hostile environment has served Newman in her leadership of NASA as continue with its principal objective: sending people to Mars in the 2030s. They just have to make sure that EVOO is taken with them on every mission.