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"The Launch Acceleration" is the twenty-third and penultimate episode of the fifth season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. This episode first aired on Thursday, May 3, 2012.[1]


Howard learns that his NASA mission has been canceled, much to his relief, only to later learn that it is back on and has been pushed up and coinciding with his wedding. Leonard risks endangering his newly rekindled romance with Penny with a sudden marriage proposal. Meanwhile, Amy's loving gestures stir up feelings in Sheldon he never thought he had.

Extended Plot[]

The launch acceleration leonard, howard and raj

The groom's men trying the tuxedo store.

Howard receives word from NASA that his mission to the International Space Station has been canceled due to problems with the Soyuz capsule during a pressurization test. He seems quite relieved about not going into or possibly dying in space.

Later on, at the tuxedo store, as the guys are getting fitted into their tuxedos, Howard breaks the news about his mission's cancellation to Leonard and Raj. The two men express their relief that Howard is not going since they find Russian technologies to be unreliable. Sheldon comes out from the fitting room, wearing a tuxedo with red long johns. Leonard thinks he must be burning up with all the layers of clothing, but Sheldon defends wearing the long johns to protect his urethra. He looks pleased with his appearance in front of the mirror and thinks he looks like The Flash getting ready to be wed. Upon discovering a used tissue inside one of the pockets, he starts to freak out and runs outside to get emergency Purell from Leonard's car.

Later at Penny's apartment, Leonard comes over carrying a small cylinder containing sulfur hexafluoride gas, which is a leftover from one of his experiments at work. He brings over a balloon and the Leonard and Penny start to play around by inhaling the gas and laugh as their voices sound deeper. This fun eventually leads to them making out. Penny then tells Leonard that she is ready if they want to take their relationship a little bit further. She also stresses out how much she does not want to make things weird between them if they do. Leonard agrees and they continue making out.

The Launch Acceleration Amy and Sheldon 2

Amy is on a mission making Sheldon happy.

At Amy's Apartment, Amy is making dinner when Sheldon knocks on the door. It is their monthly Date Night. Sheldon is perplexed as to why they are spending their Date Night at her place when the Pasadena City Council is considering making crosswalk times longer and the LEGO store is having a Midnight Madness Sale. He thinks having adequate time crossing the road to walk to the LEGO store to get a LEGO Indiana Jones is his idea of a hot date. Amy thinks since all their friends are making progress in their relationships, they should too. Sheldon disagrees, because he has known her for two years and he is already at her house after dark, so they cannot go any faster than that. Amy knows that he will be reluctant which is why she is using her knowledge in neurobiology to increase his feelings for her. She says that human beings develop emotional attachments and in Sheldon's case, his attachments include his mother and superheroes, so she will try to transfer some of those attachments to her. She starts by turning on romantic music, which turns out to be the Super Mario Bros. theme tune, Sheldon's favorite video game from his childhood days. Sheldon sees where she is going and notes that it is not going to work, although he starts to hum along with the tune. Amy smiles and moves on to her second plan, offering him a drink. Sheldon tells her he does not drink, but changes his mind when Amy offers strawberry Quik, his favorite pink fluid. Amy proceeds by telling him he will be surprised at what she has prepared for dinner, which turns out to be spaghetti with little pieces of hot dog cut up in it, another of Sheldon's favorites. Sheldon is ecstatic and starts scooping spaghetti onto his plate, while commenting that they should do this more often. He suddenly stops as he comes to a realization at how Amy's gestures cause him to react, only to earn a wide grin from Amy.

The Launch Acceleration Leonard and Penny

Leonard proposed during sex.

Back at Penny's apartment, Penny and Leonard walk out of her room with Penny extremely upset. She does not appreciate that Leonard proposed to her in the middle of sex, but Leonard reasons that he was just caught up in the moment, and also, since Howard is getting married, he is having some kind of a wedding fever. He tells her that when they look back at this one day, it is going to be funny, and proceeds to imagine a flashback of the moment. Penny does not think it is funny and is upset that Leonard is moving too fast again. After failing to make Penny laugh at their situation, Leonard takes it as a cue for him to leave.

The Launch Acceleration Howard and Bernadette 3

Howard in an extremely good mood.

Meanwhile, in Howard's bedroom, Howard suggests to Bernadette that they learn the final dance routine from Dirty Dancing for their first dance, although he will be the girl and Bernadette the guy. Bernadette says that Howard is in a good mood, and he is, the effect of not having to go to space, but he reasons that he is just happy he is marrying the girl of his dreams and his mother has agreed to not follow them on their honeymoon. Suddenly, NASA calls and informs him that the mission is back on, though his launch date will be pushed up to the same week as his wedding. Howard tells Bernadette in the hope of getting her upset and he will have to cancel the mission then. Surprisingly, Bernadette is happy for Howard and wants him to pursue his dream, even at the expense of postponing their wedding. Howard tries using every excuse not to go and tries to get Bernadette to change her mind by mentioning her intimidating father, who will lose the deposit he paid if they postpone their wedding, but Bernadette is convinced her father will be fine if she talks to him. So, Howard volunteers to talk to him himself, and seems excited when Bernadette thinks Howard meeting her father will only cause him to make Howard cancel the mission, though he conceals it.

At Sheldon and Leonard's apartment, the two friends are playing Tri Dimensional Chess. Sheldon moves his queen to the second level. Leonard uses his knight to take out Sheldon's bishop and wonders whether Sheldon is fine since his last move leaves his queen vulnerable, and before that he moved his knight to a corner, trapping it, and he keeps sighing, "Why me?" He sighs and wonders whether he can ask Leonard about women. Leonard tells him to read the book he got him last year. Sheldon refuses and says that he is having a problem with Amy and that the book gave him nightmares. Leonard tells Sheldon that he too is having problems with Penny. Sheldon is amazed that the two of them are engaging in the social convention of men talking about their ladies. He tells Leonard that Amy has embarked on a campaign to increase his feelings for her by making him happy. Leonard sarcastically responds with how awful that must be for Sheldon. Sheldon continues by telling that Amy has arranged for him to become an Amtrak junior conductor for a day, which is supposedly open for children only, but she got them to make him an exception. He even gets to blow the train whistle. Leonard admits that Amy is good. Sheldon agrees and continues that his condition worsens because he starts to have affectionate feelings for her at inappropriate times. Leonard mistakes his words for carnal desires and Sheldon quickly negates him, and tells him to stop referencing that book he got him. Sheldon tells Leonard that he starts seeing particles from his work as Amy's dandruff gently cascading down her pale and slightly hunched shoulders. He wonders what Amy has done to him, and how to make those feelings stop. Leonard suggests proposing in the middle of love-making if they have gone physical as it is guaranteed to kill the mood, as he has done with Penny. Sheldon assumes they are discussing about Leonard now, and wonders whether all they do is complain about their ladies but no one offers any solutions. Leonard tells him it is, and Sheldon complains no wonder the women are winning.

The Launch Acceleration Howard and Mr

Howard has a talk with Bernadette's father.

At Bernadette's father's house, Mr. Rostenkowski is looking at a photo album. Howard is disturbed to see it is a murder scene and Mr. Rostenkowski tells him it is a picture of his last case. Howard is uncomfortable and starts telling him about his mission and the wedding postponement. He gets even more intimidated when Mr. Rostenkowski uses that time to crush walnuts. Howard quickly wraps up their conversation by saying that he understands they cannot postpone the wedding so he will cancel his mission and proceeds to leave the room. Mr. Rostenkowski stops him and tells Howard that he initially did not think Howard is the right man for his little girl. He even thought that Bernadette chooses Howard to purposely punish him, until he heard about Howard going to space. Howard tries to come up with excuses to get Mr. Rostenkowski make him cancel the mission but he says not to worry about the deposit. Howard finally confesses that he is terrified about going to space. Mr. Rostenkowski comforts him by saying that everything will be fine and that Bernadette can always find someone else if he does not come back.

The Launch Acceleration Leonard and Penny 2

Penny gently tells Leonard "no" to his proposal.

Leonard walks up the stairs and reaches his apartment, at the same time as Penny is leaving hers to go to work. She greets him and proceeds to go down the stairs. Leonard stops her and brings back up the topic of his proposal. He tells her she has not answered him. She knows. He asks her again to answer him, so Penny walks up to him and gives him a kiss. Immediately upon breaking apart, she tells him gently "no". She continues walking down the stairs and Leonard asks her out loud whether they are still dating though and she answers yes. Leonard is happy, and proceeds to enter his apartment. He is shocked to discover Amy wearing an Original Series Star Trek medical uniform, using a medical scanner and a tricorder, as she performs a check-up on Sheldon, who is lying flat on his back on the couch. Amy greets Leonard and he asks her what they are doing. Amy tells him that they are playing doctor, Star Trek style and she winks at him. Sheldon tells Leonard that he is in hell, but then tells Amy to continue what she is doing.



  • The TV Critic: "I was intrigued by the idea of Howard actually being relieved at not going into space. After he found the training so hard it made sense but I was hoping to see more conflict...I really liked the thinking behind the Sheldon-Amy story....I did enjoy seeing them Leonard and Penny being cute together for a change (playing with balloons)...This has potential but was executed with little spark."[2]
  • The A.V. Club gives this episode an A[3]
  • IMDb user reviews


  • Title Reference: The title refers to NASA moving up Howard's launch to the ISS.
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity card.
  • This episode was watched by 13.91 million people with a rating of 4.7 (adults 18–49).[4]
  • This episode aired in Canada on May 3, 2012, with 3.232 million viewers and a weekly ranking of #1.[5]
  • Episode transcript [1]

Costume Notes[]


Green Lantern equation

  • Penny wears a blue feux layered top by Candies - once available at Kohl's but appears discontinued.
  • Bernadette wears a salmon-colored Pontelle cropped cardigan from Forever21 that also appears to be discontinued.
  • Sheldon wears his Green Lantern equation t-shirt.


  • A botched pressure test of the real Russian space capsule slated to launch the next crew to the International Space Station forced NASA and its partners to delay the planned liftoff for more than a month. The Soyuz's crew capsule, one of three modules that make up the entire Soyuz TMA-04M vehicle, had been scrapped after an accident during testing caused it to spring a leak in one of its descent module's rocket thruster fuel tanks. (See Damaged Russian Spaceship Forces Big Launch Delay for Next Station Crew.)
  • At the beginning of the episode, Howard has a disassembled intelligent lighting fixture on his workbench, similar to the kind used in discos and on TV quiz shows. It can be clearly seen in the photo at the top of this page. Presumably the props department got a faulty one from somewhere that they thought looked sciency.
  • First appearance of Bernadette's father, Mike Rostenkowski.
  • First time that a reference is made about The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
  • An allusion to How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (TV special)|Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is made, with previous references in "The Classified Materials Turbulence" and "The Maternal Congruence."
  • Sheldon claimed that he spent 600 hours of his childhood playing Super Mario Bros. Previously in "The Codpiece Topology" (S2E02), he claimed the same and actually played this game.
  • Mr. Rostenkowski has a cupboard full of shotguns.
  • Leonard wins a three-dimensional chess match against a distracted Sheldon, who he usually loses to.
  • Raj comments on how Sheldon is wearing full body underwear to avoid germs isn't as entertaining as when he rents bowling shoes. He's referring to Sheldon's custom to spray his bowling shoes with disinfectant, a sight that was seen in "The Wheaton Recurrence".
  • Amy prepares spaghetti with little pieces of hot dog cut up in it just like his mom used to make. This meal is in accordance with Sheldon's statements, "Will you cut up hot dogs into little chunks and mix them in with the sauce? ...Oh! You’re in for what my mother calls a real Italian treat," in "The Spaghetti Catalyst". The hot dogs are likely a substitute for the pork neck bones cooked in traditional Italian spaghetti sauce.
  • The LEGO Store has a midnight sale and Sheldon wants to buy a LEGO Indiana Jones.
  • Leonard and Penny have sex for the first time since "The Lunar Excitation".
  •  Problem: if Sulphur hexafluoride weighs six times heavier than air (explaining why after Penny breathes it in she starts to talk like Barry White). When Leonard fills a balloon with the stuff and lets go, it should fall like a brick. Instead it is seen to float UP, as if it were helium....
  • Dave Roeger is the name of a guy Bill Prady once knew
  • Second episode in the Wolowitz wedding arc.
  • Penny now has a Cookie Monster tattoo, though she doesn't say where.
  • Penny no longer avoids discussing her relationship with Leonard and does it twice. Once when they jump out of bed and once when she declines his marriage proposal.


Sheldon: Amy has embarked on a campaign to increase my feelings for her by making me happy.

Sheldon: I must say, I was surprised you chose to spend our date night in your apartment. As I mentioned, the Pasadena City Council is debating longer crosswalk times, and later the Lego store is having a Midnight Madness Sale. You ask anyone, that's a hot date.
Amy: Tempting choices, but I have something special planned for tonight.
Sheldon: What can be more special than having an adequate amount of time to cross the street on your way to buy a tiny Lego Indiana Jones?
Amy: With our friends moving forward in their relationships, I have decided that we should make progress in ours as well.
Sheldon: Dear Lord! Two years ago we didn't even know each other. And now, I'm in your apartment after dark. How much faster can this thing go?
Amy: I had a feeling you'd be reluctant, which is why I'm going to dip into my neurobiological bag of tricks.
Sheldon: Oh! You brain monkeys kill me. Dip away! (He takes a seat by the counter)
Amy: I've devised an experiment that I believe will increase your feelings for me, in an accelerated time frame.
Sheldon: Well, how do you propose to do that? I hope you're not thinking about some sort of Lysergic acid diethylamide|LSD thought control. Because there's only one mind-expanding drug that this man enjoys, and that's called school.
Amy: (Opens her refrigerator) Human beings form emotional attachments as they grow up. In your case, to your mother, superheroes, etc. I'm going to attempt an experiment that will get you to transfer those feelings to me.
Sheldon: Well, seems what's on the menu tonight is malarkey, with a big side of poppycock.
Amy: We'll see. Let's start with a little romantic dinner music, shall we? (turns on the music)
Sheldon: Super Mario Bros. theme?
Amy: Yes.
Sheldon: I see what you're doing. You're attempting to build on the work of Hermann Ebbinghaus|Ebbinghaus by triggering an involuntary memory of me playing that game. Admittedly the happiest 600 hours of my childhood. But it won't work!
Amy: Fine! There's no reason we still can't have a lovely dinner. Why don't you have a seat?
(Sheldon walks to the set-up table while humming to the Super Mario Bros. theme)
Amy: May I offer you something to drink?
Sheldon: You know I don't drink.
Amy: Not even (takes out a bottle) strawberry Quik?
Sheldon: I love strawberry Quik. It's my favorite pink fluid. Narrowly beating out Pepto-Bismol.
Amy: Oh, I know. I think it will go nicely with what I have prepared for dinner.
Sheldon: (Pleasantly surprised) Spaghetti with little pieces of hot dog cut up in it!
Amy: Just like your mommy used to make.
Sheldon: Oh! Yummy yummy! (scoops spaghetti on his plate) We should do this more often. (Realizes something) Uh-oh!

Howard: Well, that's it. My orders have been rescinded. I am officially no-go to space.
Leonard: I'm sorry, Howard. But I gotta tell you, I'm a little relieved you're not going.
Howard: Why?
Leonard: Come on, you were gonna go up in a rocket designed in the 1960's by the Russians.
Howard: Yeah, so?
Leonard: When was the last time you were at Best Buy and you heard someone say, Ooh, check out this Blu-ray player, it must be good, it was built in Russia?
Howard: Well, their technology isn't that bad.
Raj: When you come back to Earth in a Soyuz capsule, you free fall, from space, at 500 mph, and the only thing that slows you down is a little parachute that pops out right before you crash into the ground. And the whole thing was designed by the same brilliant minds who were unable to capture Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Howard: Right, well, whatever. I wasn't worried.
Raj: You weren't?
Howard: Let me explain the difference between you and me. You watch Star Trek, I live it.
Raj: Oh, please. I don't remember the episode of Star Trek, where the guy never goes to space, and brags about it in a tuxedo store.
Howard: Make all the jokes you want, but there's only one of us here brave enough to almost do what I almost did.
(Sheldon comes out from the dressing room, he is wearing a red long john with a tuxedo)
Sheldon: Ah, much better!
Leonard: You must be burning up.
Sheldon: A little. But not more than your urethras will be after whatever's in those pants swims up them. (Looks in a mirror) Well, I cut quite the dashing yet hygienic figure, don't I? I look like the Flash about to get married. (Puts his hands in the pockets, and discovers a tissue in one of them) Oh, a tissue! A tissue! Oh, good Lord! (Runs outside)
Tuxedo store employee: Uh, where is he going?
Leonard: He keeps emergency Purell in the car. (Fishes out the car key from his pocket)
Sheldon: (Runs back in to Leonard) Keys! Keys! Keys! (Grabs them from Leonard and runs outside again)

Howard: Yes! Thank you! Oh! Oh! I’m not gonna die in space! I’m gonna die the way God intended, in my late 50s, with a heart full of pastrami.

Leonard: I'm sorry. I did, I crossed a line. I didn't mean to!
Penny: Who says something like that right in the middle of sex?
Leonard: I don't know, it just came out. People say weird things during sex all the time.
Penny: Okay, well, they sure as hell don't say that.
Leonard: It was the heat of the moment.
Penny: No, the heat of the moment is "Ooh, yeah just like that", not "Will you marry me?".
Leonard: I'm sorry. Just give me another chance.
Penny: Why, so you can crawl under the covers and go, "Hey, baby, want to go look for houses in neighborhoods with good schools?"
Leonard: Again, I'm sorry. You know, with Howard and Bernadette getting married, I got caught up in a little wedding fever. I take it back.
Penny: You can't take something like that back. I mean, what are we even supposed to do now?
Leonard: Okay, at some point, we'll look back and this is going to be a funny story. Why don't we just start doing that now?
Penny: You're kidding.
Leonard: No. Hey, do you remember that time when I proposed to you in bed?
And you were all, like, "what are you doing?" That was so funny. So funny.
Penny: It's not funny.
Leonard: Give it a minute. Is that a little smile I see there? I should go.

Penny: Hey, you know how we’ve been taking things slow?
Leonard: Mm-hmm.
Penny: Well, I’ve been thinking, and maybe I’m ready to take things a little faster.
Leonard: Oh, great.
Penny: Mm-hmm.
Leonard: And I promise, after waiting four months, fast is what you’re gonna get.
Penny: You know, just-just one thing. Look, we’re in a really great place right now, and I don’t want to do anything that will make stuff all weird again.
Leonard: So we won’t let it get weird.
Penny: Okay. Oh, and just a heads-up, mm, since the last time you saw me naked, I got a Cookie Monster tattoo. The acceptable responses when you see it are awesome or nothing.
Leonard: What about (inhales the gas, his voice now deep) Cookies!