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The 8 weirdest things human beings have sent to space
When NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto last month, on board was a CD-ROM containing the names of 434,000 people and the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, who originally discovered the dwarf planet back in 1930.
But those aren’t the strangest things humans have sent into space – not by a long shot. Here, we look at eight surprising items that made a journey to the great beyond.
The 8 weirdest things we’ve sent to space:
1. The Voyager golden record
In 1977, Nasa launched the Voyager spacecraft on a mission to study the solar system, carrying with it a golden phonograph record titled ‘The Sounds of Earth’. The strange cargo was partly intended as a time capsule, and partly as a showcase for the diversity of life on Earth. Y’know, just in case any extraterrestrials with record players happened to stumble across it.
If aliens did manage to play the record, they would have been in for a bizarre listen. The disk included music from Mozart, Beethoven and Chuck Berry, a selection of natural sounds like wind, surf and thunder, as well as spoken greetings in 55 ancient and modern languages.
2. Pizza hut pizza
Back in 2001, Pizza Hut received an order from Yuri Usachov with a highly unusual delivery address. The Russian Usachov was posted up on the International Space Station at the time, but the company fulfilled the order anyway at the cost of $1 million.
Technically, the pizza took much longer than the standard 30-minute delivery time, so he was entitled to ask for his money back.
3. Craft beer
The rise of craft beer in recent years has led to a more discerning drinker, but brewing your bottle with ‘space yeast’ is pushing it by anyone’s standards.
As we wrote earlier this year, ‘Ground Control’ from the Ninkansi Brewery is an imperial stout made with yeast launched more than 400,000 feet into outer space. The company made 55 barrels of the stuff – the result of two years of research, development, lab time, and two separate rocket launches.
4. Luke Skywalker’s light saber
Space travel can be a dangerous business, so when the Discovery space shuttle launched in 2007 it took with it the best protection Nasa could find – the original light saber used by Luke Skywalker in 1977’s original Star Wars movie.
If only curing illness and disease was as simple as sending all of the bad bacteria to space for somebody else to deal with. Unfortunately that’s not really how it works, but we did send a sample of salmonella into orbit in both 2006 and again in 2008. Scientists learnt that the bacteria only becomes more dangerous in microgravity, becoming three to seven times more virulent.
6. A hamburger
Speaking of food poisoning, in 2012 four students from Harvard University sent a gooey hamburger from their local fast food joint nearly 30,000 meters above ground level. Dubbed ‘Operation Skyfall’, the burger was left to age and then coated in varnish to ensure it survived its flight, strapped to a helium balloon alongside a GoPro camera.
7. Buzz Lightyear
Buzz Lightyear spent the best part of three feature-length movies believing he was a genuine space ranger, but in 2008 he finally embarked on a real 15-month mission to the stars. The 12inch toy spent 467 days orbiting the Earth aboard the International Space Station, and now sits proudly in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space museum.
8. A corned beef sandwich
It may not look it, but our final space item is actually the most controversial of the lot. In 1965, pilot John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich on to Nasa’s first ever two-man space mission as a joke – although not everyone was amused.
Space food is commonly covered with a gelatin layer to stop crumbs from falling behind electrical panels, or flying into the eyes of fellow astronauts in a weightless environment. Young quickly realized he couldn’t contain the crumbs in space and pocketed his sandwich, which now sits preserved in the Grissom Memorial museum.
Buzz Lightyear photo: N Azlin Sha / Shutterstock.com