Mike (and Joel) spend a considerable amount of time aboard the "Satellite of Love".

Based on my back of the envelope calculations regarding the size of their spacecraft, even if the SOL was loaded with food and had a fully breathable atmosphere to begin with, the human inhabitant/s would be dead from CO2 buildup within a matter of days and would starve to death within a few months.

So how do they eat and breathe?

enter image description here

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    Obviously I'm also interested in any other science facts that you may be aware of. – Valorum Aug 5 '15 at 19:43
  • Apparently, no one here has a sense of humor – Melllvar Mar 22 at 22:41

There are a few possible sources of food:

In early seasons, at least, the Satellite of Love and Gizmonic Institute/Deep 13 are connected (somehow) by "the umbilicus", which is used to transfer material objects back and forth between them. For example, "Cowboy Mike's Own Original Red Hot Ricocheeeet Barbecue Sauce" is sent to Deep 13 for the Mads to sample. It's... actually, it's... not that bold.

It may also be assumed that there are food supplies stored in the cargo bays of the vessel at launch. Joel eventually escapes the Satellite using an escape pod hidden in a crate labeled "Hamdingers", which Joel had not opened previously because "nobody likes Hamdingers".

There is also the "cheese compression line", which Mike mistakenly breaks in his early attempts to escape from imprisonment, though after the resulting food fight, Gypsy points out that "that's not cheese".

Finally, just before returning to earth in the final episode, Mike packs bag after huge bag of dry white rice into his luggage, indeed packing nothing but the rice. When questioned about his priorities, he cites that it "sure is good for ya".

As for breathing, I'm assuming they have some sort of oxygen recycling equipment, which Gypsy might supervise as one of the "higher functions of the ship".

  • In "Hamlet", we learn that the ship has a "feedlot" for cows. Presumably this would include grass, a potential source for hydroponic creation of oxygen. – Valorum Aug 6 '15 at 18:18

Word of God answer:

The following is the last verse of the theme song. It was written by Joel Hodgson (the creator of MST3K, who also played Joel Robinson) and Josh Weinstein (founding member of the writing team, and the original voice of Tom Servo). This makes it a pretty compelling canonical answer.

If you're wondering how he eats and breathes
And other science facts,
Then just repeat to yourself "It's just a show,
I should really just relax
For Mystery Science Theater 3000."

Speculative answer:

In most seasons of the series, movies are transported to the Satellite of Love via a 227 mile long tube called the "Umbilicus". From the official FAQ:

Q: How could a tube run from an underground cave to an orbiting satellite?
A: It's just a show, you should really just relax. The concept was introduced to allow more interaction between Deep 13 and the SOL. For the record, the umbilicus/con/port was supposed to be 227 miles long. The writers at BBI once calculated that for an object to travel from Deep 13 to the SOL in 10 seconds, it would be traveling at 82,000 miles per hour!

Q: Why did Joel/Mike watch these bombs? What would have happened if he had refused to enter the theater?
A: In episode 208- Lost Continent Joel refuses to enter the theater, and is zapped by remote control by the Mads. So it appears that he has to watch them, or get a shock to the shammies. In episode 819- Invasion of the Neptune Men Mike is so repelled by the movie that he leaves the theater, only to be forced to return when he discovers that Pearl has turned off the oxygen supply to the rest of the ship (a trick that Dr. Forrester similarly used in MST3K: The Movie). So it appears that they had to watch them, or suffer the consequences. Besides, if they didn't, it wouldn't be much of a show, right?

Taken together, these facts create the possibility that the Satellite of Love is supplied with air through the tube used to send the movie reels to the Satellite of Love1. It would follow that food, and possibly water, were supplied in the same manner.

This is entirely logical: Dr. Forrester is evil, and his whole purpose in life is to torture Joel and Mike. He built the Satellite of Love for just this purpose - to torture its inhabitants. Thus, simple logic would dictate the following:

  • The satellite is in space.

  • The satellite exists for the purpose of keeping Joel and/or Mike captive and torturing them.

  • Humans can't survive in space without food, water, oxygen, heat, etc.

  • You can't torture dead people (although you are welcome to try, it won't bother the dead people, so it isn't really torture, it's just messing around with a corpse, which could be done far more easily if you and the corpse were both on earth).

  • Therefore, it is in Dr. Forrester's best interests to provide Joel/Mike with the basic essentials for life, not for their benefit, but for the purpose of being able to continue to torture them.

But again, it's just a show, so you should really just relax.

1 On a more fundamental level, it is obvious that, if Dr. Forrester is able to shut off the oxygen supply, an oxygen supply must exist.

  • Per my earlier comment, simply hand-waving the issue away doesn't answer the question. – Valorum Aug 5 '15 at 20:50
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    @Richard - Bring it up with the writers. You're arguing with a word of God answer. – Wad Cheber Aug 5 '15 at 20:52
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    Given that it is "just a show", it's canonically evident that air, food, etc are replenished from outside the studio. – recognizer Aug 6 '15 at 15:57
  • @recognizer - Given that the theme song is not part of the show's official canon universe, I'd argue that it's really in space, not in a studio. – Valorum Aug 6 '15 at 17:36
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    @Richard - The theme song was written by show creator Joel Hodgson, along with Josh Weinstein, one of the founding member of the show's cast and writing team, and the original voice of Tom Servo. It has been around from pretty much the beginning. Sounds canonical to me. – Wad Cheber Aug 6 '15 at 17:44

While I don't specifically have an in-universe answer for you, I did some research on Wikipedia to get some more general information. I'm not a biologist or a mathematician, so take this information with a grain of salt.


Mastication is primarily an unconscious (semi-autonomic) act, but can be mediated by higher conscious input. The motor program for mastication is a hypothesized central nervous system function by which the complex patterns governing mastication are created and controlled.

It is thought that feedback from proprioceptive nerves in teeth and the temporomandibular joints govern the creation of neural pathways, which in turn determine duration and force of individual muscle activation (and in some cases muscle fiber groups as in the masseter and temporalis).

This motor program continuously adapts to changes in food type or occlusion.[3] This adaptation is a learned skill that may sometimes require relearning to adapt to loss of teeth or to dental appliances such as dentures.

It is thought that conscious mediation is important in the limitation of parafunctional habits as most commonly, the motor program can be excessively engaged during periods of sleep and times of stress. It is also theorized that excessive input to the motor program from myofascial pain or occlusal imbalance can contribute to parafunctional habits.


In mammals, breathing in, or inhaling, is due to the contraction and flattening of the diaphragm, a domed muscle that separates thorax and abdomen. If the abdomen is relaxed, this contraction causes the abdomen to bulge outwards, expanding the volume of the body. This increased volume causes a fall in pressure in the thorax, which causes the expansion of the lungs. When the diaphragm relaxes air leaves largely by elasticity of the lung. This is quiet, relaxed breathing needing little energy. When need increases, the abdominal muscles resist expansion. The increased abdominal pressure then tilts the diaphragm and ribcage upwards with an increase in volume and the entry of air. Expiration follows relaxation of diaphragm and abdominal muscles, but can be increased by downward action of abdominal muscles on the rib cage. This forced expiration increases pressure across the airway's walls and may lead to narrowing and perhaps to wheezing. Speech depends on the balance between the two forms of breathing, and in humans conscious change often modifies autonomous reaction to need. The pattern can vary with fear in anticipation of need, and so with anxiety, and may be conditioned to experience such as the loss of an inhaler. It is also affected by loss of lung elasticity in age or pulmonary disease, of abdominal expansion from obesity, or of muscle power to resist expansion or to pull the ribcage down.

"So how do they eat and breathe?"

With their noses, mouths, stomachs, and lungs. Respectively.

  • +1, but links to the quoted articles would improve this answer. – Todd Wilcox Aug 6 '15 at 14:04
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    The section headings ("Eating" and "Breathing") are links to the relevant pages. MST3K is serious business. – Liesmith Aug 6 '15 at 14:12
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    This is technically correct. The best kind of correct. – Valorum Aug 6 '15 at 14:21

Earth sent up physical reels of film in an effort to torture the inhabitants. What good is torture if the participant dies? No, we wouldn't want that, would we? So stocks of food and water and air were sent along. Since they were sending up a crate of stuff anyway, they also threw in random garbage as well- thus the occasional bits where the humans and robots show off their various new inventions made from junk.

Sadly, however, it's clear that a lack of companionship and perhaps something wrong with the life support system resulted in Mike/Joel going insane and believing that they were capable of building autonomous, self-aware robots from random pieces of scrap.

Tragic, really.

  • I like this. Can you recall any incidents where they sent food or oxygen? – Valorum Aug 5 '15 at 22:08
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    Oxygen, no. I think I do remember remember seeing someone eating stuff like a bag of chips, which wouldn't be a standard complement of food on a space ship (too low in energy density), nor would a gumball machine (and what happened to the edible gumballs?). But if they sent food, it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume at the very least air filters or chemicals for the air regeneration units like exist in the ISS and other space ships. See wikipedia for more info: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_scrubber In fact, this would explain where the blast of smoke comes from when going – Broklynite Aug 5 '15 at 22:11
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    through the doors to see the movie- it's gaseous water exhaust from the CO2 scrubbers. – Broklynite Aug 5 '15 at 22:15
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    @Broklynite if they were sending bags of chips, well, then they've got more air than food – Petersaber Aug 6 '15 at 7:35
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    @Petersaber You get +1 internet for making me laugh hard enough to hurt myself. – Broklynite Aug 7 '15 at 9:51

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