Fried chicken to join long list of strange things sent to space

A fried chicken burger may soon go to space, not because it is easy but because it is a great PR opportunity. Andrew Masterson reports.

Artist's impression of a chicken burger in orbit next to the International Space Station.
Artist's impression of a chicken burger in orbit next to the International Space Station.
Source images: NASA / Lauri Patterson / Getty

This weekend – if the weather holds out – a small but significant piece of aeronautical history will be made, with the first ever launch of a fried chicken sandwich into space.

The launch, which will take place from a facility owned by the private space industry company World View Enterprises, in Arizona, US, isn’t exactly for reasons of pure science.

It’s part of an advertising campaign for a well-known chain of takeaway chicken shops. The sandwich – more a burger, technically speaking -- will be sent up in its own little rocket-propelled capsule into the stratosphere.

There, it will hover about in micro-gravity, somewhere between 13 and 50 kilometres above the ground, frozen solid at around minus 32 degrees Celsius, while highly paid creative types take its photograph.

As missions go, it’s unlikely to end up included in any of the better histories of rocket science, but it does, at least, add one more item to the ever-increasing list of bizarre things that people have sent into space.

There were, for example, the three Lego minifigures – of the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno, and Gallileo – that were put onboard NASA's Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft before it took off in August, 2011.

Much more recently, in March this year private operator SpaceX had to work out the best way to secure a saxophone for a trip to the stars – or, at least, to the International Space Station, where astronaut and amateur jazz player Thomas Pesquet was waiting for it.

Music recordings have long been favoured items to send into the blackness, either broadcast or included as playable cargo on craft. Should there happen to be, somewhere out there, an extraterrestrial with a developing passion for Earth music, his, her or its collection now comprises ‘Across The Universe’ by the Beatles, ‘Melancholy Blues’ by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven, ‘Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground’ by Blind Willie Johnson, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, ‘Johnny B Goode’ by Chuck Berry, an untitled track by Brit-poppers Blur, ‘Up In The Air’ by US band 30 Seconds To Mars, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, conducted by Otto Klemperer.

Dead people have also been listed on cargo manifests for NASA missions on a number of occasions. Both Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and James Doohan, who played Scotty in the series’ first incarnation, had their ashes taken aboard NASA missions.

In 2006 the ashes of astronomer Clyde Tombaugh – who discovered Pluto – were placed aboard the New Horizons probe, which headed off to the Kuiper belt. A few years later, Tombaugh became the first dead person ever to leave the solar system.

Other items variously stashed about space missions – manned or not – include a wheel of cheese (a homage to Monty Python), a photograph of the UK city of Oxford, a drawing of a penis done by Andy Warhol, a piece of the Wright brothers’ aeroplane, and a jar of sea urchin sperm.

Also, and somewhat appropriately, Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber from the 1977 Star Wars movie was carried aboard the Discovery space shuttle in 2007.

But with fried chicken now set to escape earthly bounds, can intergalactic pizza delivery be too far away?

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