Beam it up: the strangest things sent to space
Image credit: Stratonauts/Simon Howie
We reminisce about some of the most unusual things that have left the confines of Earth over the years.
Back in 2001, Pizza Hut became the first company to make a delivery into space. The fast-food chain struck a deal with the Russian space agency Roscosmos to have a pizza delivered to the International Space Station (ISS).
According to reports, the pizza company tweaked the dish slightly for the occasion, with salami used instead of pepperoni as this was more durable – pepperoni did not preserve well during the required 60-day test.
Despite the Russians getting paid to have pizza delivered to them, American TV company ABC reported at the time that Nasa forbid the US crew from eating any of it because the US space agency has a policy against advertisements on their spacecrafts. Makes you wonder if the Russians ate their slices mockingly in front of the US crew.
“The Force is strong with this little one”
In November 2020, astronauts from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule 'Resilience' launched into space for the private firm’s first operational flight to the ISS for Nasa. When they arrived onto the station, the four astronauts on board were greeted by an adorable little passenger that had been riding with the arrivals in secret – a small plush toy of The Child from the Disney+ Star Wars series The Mandalorian.
The plush stowaway – who is of the same species as the character Yoda in the original Star Wars trilogy, except much younger and much cuter – was sent there to uplift the astronauts’ moods, but the crew explained it was also brought to the ISS as a microgravity indicator to demonstrate the effects of weightlessness in space. Nasa astronaut Mike Hopkins said that it still brought a smile to their faces, nonetheless.
To boldly go...
From one sci-fi franchise to another, this one is rather bleak. Indeed, it has been the last wish of certain people to have their remains launched into space – a space burial.
The first time this happened was in 1992 with Star Trek TV series creator Gene Roddenberry. In his will, he requested that his remains “boldly go where no one has gone before”. Astronauts flew a portion of his ashes into space, and returned to Earth, on the Space Shuttle Columbia as part of the STS-52 mission, whereby its primary objectives were the deployment of the Laser Geodynamics Satellite II (LAGEOS-II) and operation of the US Microgravity Payload-1 (USMP-1).
Starman and Roadster’s latest adventures
In February 2018, Elon Musk sent his personally owned Tesla Roadster into space. It served as the dummy payload for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy test flight – ‘Starman’, a spacesuit-clad mannequin designed by Musk’s space firm SpaceX, occupies the driver’s seat. It is the first production car launched into space and the first to orbit the Sun.
The fun doesn’t end there. Starman and Roadster are still on a cosmic journey. In fact, in October last year, the pair cruised by Mars for the first time. “Starman, last seen leaving Earth, made its first close approach with Mars today – within 0.05 astronomical units, or under 5 million miles, of the Red Planet,” SpaceX announced via Twitter on the 7 October.
Whereisroadster.com provides live updates of the duo’s journey in space.
One lucky haggis
A 454g haggis from Scotland became the latest strange item sent high above the Earth’s atmosphere. In January this year, Glasgow-based space education and research company Stratonauts teamed up with Simon Howie, a butcher from Dunning village in Perth and Kinross, to launch the quintessentially Scottish dish in a unique Burns Night celebration.
Attached to a weather balloon, the meat and spice mix (pictured at the top of this page) soared over 20 miles above the Earth during a 2 hour and 37 minute, 52-mile round trip, before touching down in the Scottish border town of Lauder.
A cake and a cuppa?
You may remember seeing a viral video from a few years ago on social media, which involved a teacake’s voyage into space in a fun experiment. Well, that wasn’t in your imagination. Indeed, in 2017, scientists at Glasgow Science Centre (GSC) launched a Tunnock’s Teacake into space using a hydrogen weather balloon.
The teacake – which they named Terry – launched in Houston, Renfrewshire in the Lowlands of Scotland. It took 1 hour and 29 minutes to hit a peak altitude of 37,007m and took 40 minutes to come back to Earth. Footage from a camera attached to the weather balloon broadcasted on Facebook, receiving 33,000 views when it was live. The aim of the experiment was to spark young peoples’ “imagination” in science and technology.
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