8 of the weirdest things we’ve sent into space
Let's hope our friends on neighboring planets have an interest in Beethoven, the Yankees and dinosaurs.
The International Space Station received quite an intriguing set of supplies this month – including a vest that protects against radiation, a cookie baking oven and a dozen bottles of fine French wine. Sadly for the astronauts, the case of red Bordeaux is not for drinking. Rather, it's to study how being in space impacts the wine's aging process. (Interestingly, this isn't even the first bottle of wine in space: Astronaut Buzz Aldrin brought a vial of communion wine on his historic moon landing.)
This latest shipment of goodies got us thinking: what other odd items have been launched into space? Here are a few of our favorites...
100,000 Craiglist advertisements
How did aliens react to the spam of Craigslist ads? (Photo: Dennizen / Shutterstock)
In a 2005 publicity stunt for the Guinness World Records, Craigslist temporarily added a checkbox to their classified submission form. It asked: In addition to posting this ad on Craigslist, do you also want it beamed into space? More than 100,000 people – including the one who posted "Free kittens to a good home" – chose this option. With the help of the Deep Space Communications Network, those Craigslist ads joined the estimated 128 million pieces of junk in outer space. Not to be outdone, Australians sent 25,800 text messages to a red dwarf star in 2009 as part of a feel-good project called Hello From Earth. Traveling at the speed of light, those orbital messages in a bottle – likely riddled with embarrassing autocorrects and random emojis – haven't even arrived yet. They're expected there in December 2029. Talk about your slow cell service.
Steaks in space
This year marked the 50th anniversary of the historic walk on the moon by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. But 2019 may go in the history books for yet another space first: the debut of lab-grown meat aboard the International Space Station. Israel-based startup Aleph Farms has been working on Planet Earth creating the world's first steak grown inside a laboratory instead of a cow. To showcase their ability to make steak anywhere, Aleph Farms thought outside the box. Well, outside the atmosphere, to be exact. They sent the necessary tools to space and tasked an astronaut with making a piece of steak from scratch – using not much more than some cow cells and a 3D printer. The successful test was completed on the Russian side of the space station on Sept. 26.
Luke Skywalker's lightsaber
In 2007, to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of the "Star Wars" franchise, NASA stowed aboard the space shuttle Discovery a lightsaber prop used by Mark Hamill in the original film. Astronaut Jim Reilly told those gathered (some in Chewbacca and Storm Trooper costumes) that there was an inherent connection between the lightsaber and the space shuttle. "There's a kind of a fine line between science fiction and reality as far as what we do, and it's only just time really, because a lot of what we're doing right now was science fiction when I was growing up," he said. "I think it's a neat link because it combines two space themes all at one time."
When the fictional Buzz Lightyear first introduces himself to his new playmates in Pixar's "Toy Story," he tells them he's a well-traveled space ranger. They laugh and inform him he's just a plastic toy. But it turns out, Buzz's claim isn't too far from the truth. A 12-inch plastic Buzz Lightyear figurine spent 15 months aboard the International Space Station in 2008 and 2009. It was used for experiments in zero-gravity as well as to support NASA's education outreach program to elementary school students. Upon its return to Earth, that same figurine is enjoying his retirement on display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
A Beethoven symphony
In the spirit of promoting pacifism and planetary peace, NASA devised a plan in the 1970s to slingshot a pair of spacecrafts around a succession of planets and off into outer space. The goal? To let any and all aliens know that we mean them no harm. NASA approached famed physicist Carl Sagan and tasked him with coming up with the perfect message. With only six weeks to devise a plan, Sagan and his team came up with the idea to send a vinyl record, figuring that surely the extraterrestrials would be technologically advanced enough to listen to an LP. Encoded on it were 31 tracks, from Beethoven’s Opus 130 to Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode" (a song that would play a pivotal role in the time-travel fantasy film “Back to the Future” a decade later). Plated in gold, the record was constructed to survive for a billion years. The enchanting artifact may be the only thing left of our civilization once we're gone. In the meantime, the musical playlist of the Voyager Golden Record, as it was called, has since been burned onto a CD and is available on Amazon for a whopping $203.94. This was not the only time Beethoven went to space. In 2007, astronaut Stephanie Wilson brought aboard sheet music for Beethoven's famous "Ode to Joy."
Dirt from Yankees Stadium
In addition to dirt from the mount, Reisman also brought along a Yankees banner and hat on his space mission. (Photo: Gary Yim / Shutterstock)
We often don't think twice about the items we stuff into our carry-on bags: snacks, headphones, a magazine. But crew members on NASA space flights – who are allowed to take about two pounds of mementos on their flights – are dealing with much tighter quarters. Over the years, astronauts have taken small personal items like wedding rings and family photos. Astronaut Garrett Reisman got extra creative with his stash. An avid Yankees fan, the New Jersey native brought along some dirt from the pitcher's mound at Yankees Stadium. During his flight, Reisman regularly kept up with the Yankees' stats from the helpful team at mission control in Houston. Upon his return to Earth, Reisman was honored with throwing out the first pitch at a Yankees game.
What do you do if you're tech entrepreneur Elon Musk and you run both a space company and an auto manufacturer? You send one of your cars into space. That's exactly what Musk did in 2018 when he launched a Tesla Roadster into space aboard the Falcon Heavy, the most powerful operational rocket in the world. For Musk, it held a deeper meaning than a mere publicity stunt. "We really wanted to get the public here to wonder, to get excited about the possibility of something new happening in space — of the space frontier getting pushed forward," he explained. "The goal of this was to inspire you and make you believe again, just as people believed in the Apollo era, that anything is possible."
"Space dinosaurs" sounds like the perfect two-word sales pitch heard at a meeting of TV executives looking for the next "Sharknado." But, alas, this is not a figment of televised science fiction. The first dinosaur was launched into space in 1985. Well, to be more precise, it wasn't an actual dinosaur. Some shells and bones from the duck-billed Maiasaura Peeblesorum were brought onto SpaceLab 2 by American astronaut Loren Acton. The fossilized skull of the large herbivorous hadrosaurid was returned to Earth after the brief mission. We can only imagine what kind of chaos would ensue if it was still up there and somehow able to come back to life, floating around the universe in zero-gravity. We can just see it now: Steven Spielberg presents "Jurassic Asteroid."
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