Ever since humans first looked up at the heavens, we have hungered to reach them. Now that we actually can reach space routinely, we need to take some of our strange personal effects along with us or even eject them into space ahead of us. There are two main ways to send information into outer space: transmission or blasting up a physical object. Through both methods, humans have sent all sorts of intriguing data about life on Earth. Some bizarre objects have been launched or carried with humans into the heavens, from an entire car to racy pin-up photos to special space-salami pizza, along with sadder items like human remains and personal mementos. Keep reading for an epic list of the strangest things that have visited space. Check out these 42 random objects that traveled farther than any of us!
42. People sent a disco ball into space from New Zealand.
In a feel-good launch, Rocket Lab, an American space start-up, sent a giant disco ball into space carried by a rocket launched off the shores of New Zealand. The giant, person-sized disco ball was branded the “Humanity Star” by Rocket Lab’s CEO and was meant to be an observable piece of humanity in the night sky that all could share. Rocket Lab was secretive about the launch, leaving satellite watchers wondering what additional item reflected light in the sky. The Humanity Star was crafted from carbon fibers that created 65 highly reflective glass-like panels. The Humanity Star unfortunately has already returned to Earth.
According to Rocket Lab, the Humanity Star was intended to decay after nine months as it was supposed to burn when it hit the Earth’s atmosphere. It ended up resurfacing in March 2018, just two months after it was launched. The surface of this object was highly reflective and there were several reports of it being visible to the naked eye. It was most likely visible at dawn and at dusk to people on Earth. Most astronomers weren’t fans of the Humanity Star because its reflective nature could have possibly interfered with astronomical observations.
Imagine being an engineer for space launch and having your boss ask that you include an entire car in your payload calculations. Thanks, Elon. That was precisely the situation the SpaceX engineers faced in 2018 when the Falcon Heavy launch project used an entire Tesla Roadster as its dummy payload for launch. The car is now in heliocentric orbit, meaning it orbits the sun, and it also crosses periodically into Mars’ orbit. The vehicle, which initially belonged to Musk and was used to drive to work, is the only production car in space. Of course, with Musk’s sense of advertising and humor, the car didn’t go into outer space alone.
Elon Musk is on a mission to bring humanity to other planets in the universe. His hope was that launching the Tesla Roadster was the best way to do so. This SpaceX launch was live streamed online and garnered more than 2.3 million views on YouTube. This makes the launch the second most watched live broadcast on the popular video website. The Tesla Roadster launch also became the subject of countless internet memes around the world, including in Australia and Russia. Experts agreed that the use of a vehicle for this launch was an interesting and effective marketing strategy.
40. Sitting in the front seat of Elon’s car was a mannequin.
Anchored into the driver’s seat of the Tesla Roadster in heliocentric orbit is a male mannequin in a spacesuit. SpaceX nicknamed the figure “Starman,” and he is now part of the artificial satellite in the sun’s orbit. The launch generated a great deal of international attention and quickly became a meme. There is widespread debate over whether the Tesla Roadster and Starman are works of art or space debris, an increasing concern as more and more countries launch various objects into space. While some argue the heliocentric orbit is low risk and often used for mass testing, others see the stunt as a grim foreshadowing given SpaceX’s desire to launch 1,000 satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO.)
As of August 2019, Elon Musk is hopeful that SpaceX can one day launch a smaller spacecraft in an effort to find the Tesla Roadster and take pictures of it. At that time, the vehicle has already finished a complete orbit around the sun. Musk estimates that the Roadster may end up drifting around space for a billion years or longer. Over time, experts speculate, the exterior of the Tesla Roadster may become damaged by micrometeoroid impacts as well as solar and cosmic radiation.
39. People sent a trash collecting net into space in an attempt to clean up the air.
With the growing concerns over space junk as well as many countries launching an endless barrage of mass tests, satellites, and other objects (including feel-good disco balls) into space, our low earth orbit is rapidly becoming cluttered with various bits and bobs. It is estimated that at least 20,000 items at least the size of a baseball are cluttering up Earth’s airspace. To combat this clutter, the European Commission made a RemoveDEBRIS device that uses a pen-like harpoon to capture space debris, which is then dragged into a net to be returned to Earth. While this may sound relatively simple, the reality of grabbing an object out of orbit in space is incredibly tricky, and snatching up that one item took years of planning.
The RemoveDEBRIS device was crafted by engineers and students at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom. The cube-shaped device was composed of solar and communications panels. These panels were designed to communicate via GPS with engineers on Earth in order to transmit the location and attitude data of the RemoveDEBRIS device. After being tested and approved for take off, the spacecraft was launched into space on April 2nd, 2018 and landed at the International Space Station on April 4th, 2018.
38. A piece of reflective art launched into space can be visible in the nighttime sky.
The Humanity Star isn’t the only large, reflective piece of art that has been jettisoned into space in recent years. The Nevada Museum of Art worked with sculptor and artist Trevor Paglen to create “Orbital Reflector,” a 100-foot long reflective mylar balloon visible from Earth in the night sky. The 2018 SpaceX launch that carried the canopic jar found later on this list also sent the Orbital Reflector into space. Thankfully, since it is a balloon, the art installation will simply travel around the Earth for a few months before falling and burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere upon re-entry instead of becoming another piece of dreaded space junk.
This satellite was embedded in a mylar balloon that has a reflective surface. It launched on December 3rd, 2018 as a part of the SpaceX Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express. It was intended to remain in space for close to three months before it eventually disappeared after being burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere. A government shutdown led to a delay in the deployment of the Orbital Reflector, during which its engineers lost contact with the satellite. Unfortunately this means that it became lost in orbit and will be considered space junk until it immolates.
37. Thousands of worms went to space to help understand the impact on human muscle mass.
In another great SpaceX adventure, scientists sent thousands of worms into space. While this may seem like the start of an intergalactic horror film, the worms were sent directly to the International Space Station (ISS) for study by scientists onboard. The specific type of worms launched has muscle tissue that is remarkably similar to human muscle. Astronauts routinely lose up to 40% of their muscle mass while in space due to the low gravity conditions, which can wreak havoc on their bodies by virtually rapidly aging their musculoskeletal system. Scientists hope that studying the worms’ musculature can help improve muscle retention for future astronauts.
Along with three human astronauts, 36,000 worms were placed in plastic bags and stowed away on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Scientists from around the world, including the United States, Japan, Greece, the United Kingdom, and South Korea, teamed up to work on the Molecular Muscle Experiment. This experiment studies the genetic similarities of worms and humans in order to determine what causes muscle loss during a space expedition. Worms are also an ideal subject because they don’t take up a lot of room on a spacecraft and they grow quickly, which is ideal for experiments.
36. A Mars seismometer to measure “marsquakes” was launched into space.
The InSight Lander, which launched in 2018, delivered an important piece of scientific equipment to Mars: a seismometer. While many other bodies in our solar system are believed to be tectonically active, we couldn’t measure the activity before now. The seismometer, which successfully landed on the surface of Mars, is ready to detect and report back findings on “Marsquakes,” the Martian equivalent of earthquakes. It will operate for one Martian year, which is roughly equivalent to about two Earth years. This machine recorded its first likely Marsquake data in April 2019, hopefully providing useful data for understanding tectonic activity on other planets.
Also known as the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, InSight launched into space on May 5th, 2018 on board the Atlas V-401 rocket. On November 26, 2018, it successfully made it to Mars where it landed at Elysium Planitia. Once it landed, it took several hours for the Martian dust to settle and the spacecraft’s solar array motors to get warmed up. Then InSight’s solar panels were able to be spread out. InSight’s journey took the satellite more than 300 million miles throughout space. It cost roughly $830 million to get the seismometer to planet Mars.
We almost had a boy band member in space as the youngest astronaut in the glorious heyday of boy bands. Lance Bass of the hugely popular N’Sync trained and was certified as an astronaut by NASA and the Russian Space Program, but he ultimately failed to raise enough funding to go into space aboard any missions. Bass continues to advocate for space travel and research and still hopes to go into space someday. With the rise of space tourism planned through SpaceX and other ventures, he will likely have his opportunity soon. Perhaps the next battlefield of the great boy band wars of the 2000s will be the moon.
Along with his training to become an astronaut, Lance Bass was considered to be the host of a TV show in the United States called The Big Mission. The show would involve regular people enduring space training in order to win a spot on the Russian Soyuz space capsule. Shortly after that, the idea was scrapped and instead a documentary was proposed starring Bass’s journey to become the youngest astronaut in the world. He underwent a large amount of training and even has heart surgery to correct a cardiac arrhythmia issue that impacted his health. Although he never made it to space, Lance Bass’s legacy will always include his efforts to make it onto a spacecraft.
34. Being launched into space is the ultimate tourist experience.
Sir Richard Branson is not content to merely conquer consumer electronics, mobile data, and commercial air flight along with his many other corporate holdings. The legendary entrepreneur has now turned his sights to space and formed Virgin Galactic, a space flight company, to offer tourists travel to outer space. The company’s spaceship, the VSS Unity, has already put tourists in space and has reservations from over 2,000 hopeful space passengers, including Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio. Virgin Galactic intends to offer expensive multi-day tours that include zero gravity experiences and the Earth’s view from space. Other companies, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, are also competing for the space market.
This phenomenon could become the next great business venture. So many people want to know what lies beyond Earth’s atmosphere and they’re willing to pay big bucks for it! Technology could become so advanced that people could pay for a day trip into space to experience the unknown. This could make it so people can get the astronaut experience without having to undergo extensive training and preparation. It will be interesting to see what the future of space travel looks like.
33. The popular TV show, The Expanse, sent one of the show’s ship models into space.
People who like science fiction shows tend to get pretty heavily invested in outlandish stunts to save their favorites. Fans of the post-nuclear apocalypse drama Jericho famously sent over nine tons of peanuts to NBC studios to protest the show’s cancellation. Fans of the science-fiction drama The Expanse sought to reach greater heights with their protest of the show’s cancellation, going so far as to launch a model of one of the show’s ships, the Roci, into the edge of space. Thanks in part to the enormous fan reaction, Amazon Prime Video picked up the series after the SyFy channel canceled it.
The Expanse is set several hundred years into the future, with humanity colonizing the entire Solar System. It follows the United Nations as it strives to keep the peace between Earth and other planets in the galaxy. This electrifying show was lauded by critics who praised The Expanse for its political narrative, impressive visuals, and character development. It was nominated for several awards and won a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Fans are no doubt enjoying the latest season on Amazon Prime Video and can look forward to a sixth and final season coming soon.
32. A canopic jar is used to store and preserve the viscera of their owner for the afterlife — and one was sent to space.
SpaceX appears on the list of strange objects yet again, but for a very touching reason this time. The company’s 2018 launch of the Epic 64-Satellite included a beautiful tribute to American’s first Black astronaut who tragically died before reaching space himself. Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr. was selected for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program in 1967 but died less than six months later during a training exercise for the program. While Richard Nixon ultimately canceled the MOL program, it is highly likely that Lawrence would have become the first Black man in space. SpaceX launched a canopic jar in his honor designed by noted Black Bahamian conceptual artist Tavares Strachan.
Lawrence was an impressive man who was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. When he was 21, he became a pilot for the United States Air Force. At the age of 30, Lawrence earned a Ph.D. from Ohio State University in physical chemistry. During his time in the United States Air Force, he accumulated more than 2,500 flight hours, with 2,000 of those hours being in jets. It’s plain to see that had he not died so young, Robert Henry Lawrence would have made a major impact on American history.
31. LEGO figurines of the Roman god, Jupiter, were sent into space.
LEGOs, those excellent blocks of foot-stabbing creativity and innovation, have actually made many trips into space. However, the most recent was in 2016 when figurines representing the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno, and the astronomer Galileo Galilei arrived at Jupiter onboard the Juno probe. Other LEGO missions include sending models of the International Space Station (ISS) to the station itself as well as a model of the space shuttle. A Danish astronaut brought a whole box of LEGOs to the ISS as a tribute to the famous Danish toy. LEGOs have been used to get children interested in science, technology, and mathematics (STEM) fields due to their widespread popularity.
For decades, LEGOs have been one of the most popular toys for kids and adults alike. Since 2015, LEGO has been considered the world’s most powerful brand, overtaking the car company Ferrari. Building models of spacecrafts, movie sets, and other structures is a great way to get people excited about science and math because LEGOs are more than just toys. Many of the bigger LEGO sets require a lot of patience and critical thinking. Scientists have even used LEGOS to teach people about science and physics as well as use them to conduct experiments.
30. The Australian government released thousands of text messages into space.
In an attempt at interstellar friendliness, the Australian government teamed up with COSMOS magazine in 2009 to transmit thousands of messages from everyday Australians to the extrasolar planet Gliese 581 d. NASA ended up transmitting 25,878 messages after filtering out the lewd and profane messages no one would want as our first contact with aliens. We won’t know how anyone felt about the messages until at least 2049, as Gliese 581d is approximately 20 lightyears away, which means the news will take at least 40 years to arrive. Of course, the likelihood of aliens reading both English and text abbreviations is sadly relatively low.
It will be fascinating to see just what sort of an impact these messages will make on potential extraterrestrial connections. Technology is sure to advance greatly in the 40 years between now and when the messages will arrive at planet Gliese 581 d. Scientists may end up finding extraterrestrial life before 2049, leading to communications between Earth and beings from outer space. Do you think aliens use emojis? Or understand our languages? Perhaps by the time the messages reach the extrasolar planet, we will have a way to understand extraterrestrial languages.
29. Buzz Lightyear received his wish by being launched into space.
The disclaimer of “not a flying toy” is no longer entirely so accurate for Buzz Lightyear. A 12” model of the action figure toy from Pixar’s Toy Story film franchise spent 467 days orbiting Earth on the International Space Station (ISS.) Had Lightyear been a real human astronaut, his 467 days in orbit would have set a record for American astronaut time spent in orbit. After completing his record-setting length of time in orbit, Lightyear was inducted into the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. John Lasseter, the Pixar animator who created Buzz Lightyear, was on hand for the ceremony. The toy’s launch and museum exhibit are intended to help generate interest in space and science in children.
It may seem silly to do something like launch a toy into space, but things like this are essential for getting kids excited about the STEM field. It can also inspire a child to study science in the hopes of becoming an astronaut one day. Engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and other people working in the field of technology are major assets for the advancement of society. So much of the development of our world is thanks to the hard work of brilliant scientists.
28. Human ashes have been released in space more than once.
It is perhaps unsurprising that some who have dedicated their lives to space, whether through science or art, wish their remains to be sent into space after their deaths. Human remains, typically in the form of ashes, have been thrown into space numerous times, often along with satellite launches. Gene Rodenberry, the creator of Star Trek, had his ashes sent into orbit around the Earth. The actor who played Scotty on the show, James Doohan, also had his ashes carried into orbit. Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, an astronomer, and co-founder of a comet, had his remains buried on the moon. Several other astronauts, astronomers, and artists have either already had their remains sent into orbit or have plans to do so.
This may be an ideal way for some people to celebrate the lives of their loved ones. Those that love space and science most likely feel that spending eternity among the stars is a wonderful idea. The thought of someone’s family looking up at the sky and feeling connected to those who have passed away is heartwarming. It will be interesting to see how much this practice becomes more mainstream over time.
27. Pizza Hut delivered a special pizza to astronauts in space.
If humans are ever to colonize space, we certainly need to have some tasty food delivery options in place. Thankfully, we now know that Pizza Hut has us covered. In 2015, the delivery pizza giant delivered a specially formulated pizza to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a resupply rocket. Due to the lengths of time involved, the pizza was specially designed with hard-cured salami and cheese that did not mold 60-day preservation tests. The publicity stunt ultimately cost Pizza Hut over $1 million US dollars, but it was indeed worth it for the footage of astronauts happily munching on their space pizza.
It must have been cool for those astronauts to get a little taste of home on their spacecraft. That pizza was definitely a change from typical astronaut food. Space food is required to be nutritionally balanced, safe and easy to store, and have the ability to be eaten in a weightless environment. Most space food is freeze-dried or specially formulated with a shelf life of months or even years. Fresh produce like fruits and vegetables can be sent to a spacecraft during resupply missions, but they must be eaten within two days of arrival.
26. Over 100,000 Craigslist ads were launched into space.
Craigslist ads don’t seem like a particularly great source of information on the human condition of all the content for potential alien allies to have to read. However, despite this apparent strangeness, in 2005, over 100,000 posts from Craigslist were sent into space as the first transmission of a commercial web site’s information. The CEO of Craigslist, Jim Buckmaster, won an eBay auction listed by the Deep Space Communication Network to beam content into space for the winner. Buckmaster received permission from 10,000 Craigslist ad submitters to beam their advertisements into space. Given that this transmission happened before Craigslist removed its personals sections, aliens may have gotten quite an earful.
If and when alien life reads transmitted messages from Earth, it’s going to be interesting to see what their opinions of Earth are. Will they think humans are weird beings with wild thoughts? How will they respond to a website like Craigslist and will they understand its purpose? Scientists in the years to come will have the exciting task of not only seeing if there is extraterrestrial life out there, but determining if it is possible for humans on Earth to communicate with the aliens.
25. Sea monkeys were launched into space to test solar radiation dangers.
Brine shrimp, which are commonly marketed under the far more exciting name “sea monkeys” were sent into space in an early test to measure solar radiation’s dangers for human astronauts. While the brine shrimp has long been a popular first pet for children, they’re actually remarkably resilient creatures that can survive temperature and pressure changes. Brine shrimp were hatched after taking direct hits of cosmic radiation on the moon. While many of them hatched with deformities, they still hatched, and several lived to maturity. The experiment gave scientists a far greater understanding of cosmic radiation’s dangers and how to shield human astronauts from the radiation.
Brine shrimp, scientifically known as Artemia, date back to the beginning of the 10th century AD. They first appeared in the Urmia Lake in Iran and are typically found in inland saltwater lakes. Brine shrimp have the unique ability to be able to live in bodies of water with high salinity levels. Each year, more than 2,000 tons of brine shrimp are sold around the world. Scientists use them frequently to test chemicals and their toxicity levels. In addition to being called sea monkeys, brine shrimp are also marketing as aqua dragons.
24. Paul McCartney sent a message to NASA after the transmission of The Beatles song into space.
Broadcasting bits of music into space or sending recordings of iconic songs into space is a popular way of sending a bit of human culture and achievement into the cosmos. In a massive celebration of both the history of The Beatles and NASA, the space organization broadcasted The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” towards the north star, Polaris. Paul McCartney was reportedly very pleased and sent NASA a message that read, “Amazing! Well done, NASA! Send my love to the aliens. All the best, Paul.” The date of the transmission marked the 40th anniversary of the song’s recording and the 50th anniversary of NASA’s first satellite launch.
It’s hard to think of a better song to blast into space. Across the Universe was released in 1969 and its dreamy, fantastical sound makes listeners feel like they’re floating around the Milky Way. John Lennon said in a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone that it was one of the best songs he’s ever written. This iconic song has been covered by many artists, most notably David Bowie in 1975. Perhaps for NASA’s 100th anniversary, they’ll choose another excellent Beatles song to launch into space!
23. They sent Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber into space.
A little piece of Jedi memorabilia is now genuinely otherworldly. It really shouldn’t come as any surprise that a lot of astronomers and astronauts are nerds who love anything space-related. Star Wars is immensely popular among a lot of the NASA crowd, so much so that in 2009, NASA sent the actual lightsaber used by Mark Hamill to portray Luke Skywalker into space aboard the shuttle Discovery. The lightsaber received a proper send-off as Chewbacca, Boba Fett, and Stormtroopers were on hand when it left Oakland International Airport in California. Before any film prop collectors cry out as though they felt a great disturbance in the Force, the lightsaber returned safely to Earth and is still in mint condition. The stunt launch was part of the 30th-anniversary celebration of the Star Wars film franchise. George Lucas was even on hand at the shuttle’s takeoff.
Since the release of the first Star Wars movie Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope in 1977, this movie franchise has become one of the most beloved in history. The stories of jedis fighting evil in space have connected with so many people, young and old, throughout the world. It makes sense that a piece of Star Wars history would be chosen to orbit the Earth. Like the Buzz Lightyear toy, this was another way to get kids excited about science and space.
22. Recordings of natural Earth sounds like laughter and birds were transmitted to space.
To send Earth’s sounds that wouldn’t require human language to perhaps comprehend, the Voyager 1 Probe staff, including famed science popularizer Carl Sagan, curated the Voyager Golden Records, which contained not only music but pure sounds like laughter and footsteps. Among the songs included was The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” and classical works from Bach and Stravinsky. The noises of birds and whales, as well as the sounds of wind and the ocean, were included to capture the experience of living on Earth. Thunder and various animal cries were also recorded, as were human greetings in over 50 languages.
This is a great collection of sounds that may appeal to any extraterrestrial life in space. It’s an interesting introduction to human life on Earth that the aliens can use to get to know us better. Perhaps one day we will get some recordings like this so we can learn more about alien life. It will be fascinating to hear different alien languages and music styles! Scientists are no doubt excited to be able to receive transmission from extraterrestrial life beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Hopefully in the next few decades we will be able to hear from beings outside of our planet.
No stranger to sending odd items into space, Elon Musk makes another appearance on this list. In 2010, Musk’s company, SpaceX, launched a rocket with the Gruyère cheese wheel as part of the payload. The Falcon 9 rocket launch was very secretive about its cargo, which was only revealed after the missile had returned to Earth. Musk claimed the cheese cargo was a loving tribute to a favorite Monty Python sketch in which John Cleese tried to order cheese from a cheeseless cheese shop. The joke may not make sense to anyone not named Elon Musk, but at least the cheese survived its voyage into space.
Luckily cheese is a viable option for food in space. Hard cheeses like Gruyère can stay fresh for quite a long time in space. Gruyère is a yellow Swiss cheese named after the town of Gruyères in Switzerland. Its flavor is sweet, but salty and the longer it ages, the more its taste varies. Gruyère cheese fully ages within five months to one year and has a complex, earthy flavor when it reaches full maturity. This delicious cheese is the go-to choice for French onion soup, quiche, and chicken cordon bleu.
20. Playboy pictures were sent to space to serve as wall art.
Sometimes space travel is a little X-rated. On November 14, 1969, NASA launched its second expedition to the moon, Apollo 12, and with it a few scantily clad stowaways. There are many daily items that astronauts need to do as part of their space missions, so it’s no surprise that they carried detailed to-do lists strapped to their wrists, not to let any essential item slip their mind. What is surprising is how the creators of the plans decorated the Apollo 12 to-do lists. In 1969, the crew’s to-do lists were extensively decorated with cartoons and pin-up photographs from Playboy Magazine. The astronauts claimed they didn’t even notice the pictures until they were walking on the moon. The illustrated to-do lists are archived and preserved as part of NASA history.
Playboy Magazine was launched by Hugh Hefner in 1953. While it was best known for containing nude photographs, Playboy Magazine frequently published articles and short stories from famed authors including Ian Fleming, Arthur C. Clarke, Margaret Atwood, Roald Dahl, and Chuck Palahnuik. The magazine also published full-page color cartoons by artists like Shel Silverstein. Over the years, Playboy became one of the world’s most recognizable brands, with the iconic Playboy Bunny logo being seen on a wide variety of merchandise.
Ah yes, the Cola Wars, the 20th century’s most significant ongoing conflict. In 1985, both Coke and Pepsi sent specially created cans of their soft-drinks into orbit with the Challenger mission. However, as a government-funded organization, NASA refused to allow its astronauts to show any of the branded soda cans on TV to avoid tainting their image. In a genuinely hilarious 80s moment, at least one of the cans contained the spectacular failure of “New Coke,” which continues to live on in infamy as a case of advertising disaster. It isn’t recorded whether the astronauts also hated “New Coke” and the rest of 1980s America.
No matter what soda the astronauts decided to drink, it must be an unusual feeling to drink a carbonated drink in space. Being in a zero gravity environment changes the way the bubbles in a carbonated soda operate. When you open a soda on the ground, small bubbles of gas escape when they rush to the top of the soda. That doesn’t happen in space, so astronauts who drink soda while on a spacecraft will end up drinking much more gas bubbles than they would on Earth. Instead of being a refreshing drink, a soda in space is more like drinking foam.
18. Amelia Earhart’s watch traveled to space as a tribute to the female aviator.
In a lovely tribute to the historic lost female aviator, astronaut Shannon Walker brought Amelia Earhart’s watch into space on the trip that marked her becoming the 55th woman to enter outer space. Walker wore Earhart’s watch onboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 2010, over 70 years after Earhart’s disappearance. This timepiece isn’t the only piece of Earhart memorabilia to leave the planet. In November 2009, astronaut Randy Bresnik brought a piece of Earhart’s with him as well: her scarf. Earhart disappeared in 1937 during an attempted circumnavigational flight of the globe after becoming the first woman to complete a solo transatlantic flight in 1928.
She was legally declared dead in 1939 after exhaustive search efforts failed to identify any whereabouts or remains. This amazing woman continues to fascinate and inspire popular culture and has served as an inspiration for many subsequent female aviators and astronauts. There have been several notable flights by women aviators flown in honor of Amelia Earhart. Ann Dearing Holtgren Pellegreno completed a world flight and dropped a wreath over Howland Island on the 30th anniversary of Earhart’s disappearance. This island was the place Earhart was looking for on her journey before she disappeared.
17. Parts of the Wright brothers’ flyer went into space.
Much like Amelia Earhart, the Wright Brothers are a source of a considerable amount of inspiration for many astronauts thanks to their incredibly historic contributions to the history of flight. In 1903, the Wright Brothers first achieved flight with their legendarily simple yet revolutionary flyer model. The rest, indeed, is history. In acknowledgment of and to pay respect to this history, numerous astronauts have carried parts of the original Wright Brothers Flyer with them on space missions. The first such voyage to do so was the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 when a piece of wood and fabric from the original flyer was placed in the lunar module of Apollo 11.
Numerous other journeys have carried works ranging from canvas from the wings to pieces of wood from various parts. Those pieces are now on display in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In 2000, NASA sent up another piece of the historical plane to celebrate the 100th mission of the Space Shuttle and the upcoming centennial of aviation. The Wright Brothers developed their aircraft design and built it in Dayton, Ohio. Along with astronauts John Glenn and Nail Armstrong, Orville and Wilbur Wright were recognized by Ohio when it adopted the slogan “Birthplace of Aviation Pioneers.”
For the true lover of golf, what could be better than playing golf on another celestial body? Alan Shepard sought to answer that question when he just “happened” to bring a golf club and several balls along for the Apollo 14 mission in 1971. While NASA clamped down on bringing along souvenir type items after Apollo 11 in 1969, they apparently weren’t checking for smuggled sports equipment. When an astronaut finds himself in space with a successfully smuggled golf club and balls, what does he do? He plays a round of golf on the surface of the moon! One indeed wonders how that discussion with NASA mission control went down.
Alan Shepard was inspired by comedian Bob Hope, who was known to take a gold club everywhere he went. He even took one to NASA headquarters and had it on him during a space simulation! Shepard realized that the flight of a golf ball was an excellent way to explain how the Moon’s gravitational pull worked. To practice his Moon golf swing, Shepard went to his local golf course and wore his space suit while playing in a bunker. When he landed on the Moon and swung his club, his fourth swing made contact with the golf ball and it traveled for more than 30 seconds.
15. Charles Moss Duke, Jr. was the first person to leave a family portrait in space.
If golf balls on the moon aren’t strange enough, how about a very 70s family portrait? Charles Moss Duke, Jr. became the youngest person to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. He was the 10th person to walk on the moon in history. To commemorate this achievement, he decided to leave permanent proof of his presence on the surface of the moon itself. Charles left a photograph of his family, showing his wife Dorothy and two sons, Charles III and Thomas, in a transparent plastic packet on the surface of the moon. There is NASA photography of the package with the photo lying on the surface.
Another notable thing Charles Moss Duke, Jr. did on the surface of the moon was attempt to set a record. In his final minutes on the moon, Charles tried to set the record for a lunar high jump. He managed to jump roughly 2 feet 8 inches, but he overbalanced. He ended up falling over backwards onto his primary life support system (PLSS.) This was extremely dangerous because had his PLSS broken or his suit ruptured, it could have been fatal for Charles Moss Duke, Jr.
14. A Doritos ad was transmitted via the radio into space.
Music, greetings, Craigslist ads, and text messages have all been beamed into space, and pizza has been physically sent up, so why not a Doritos ad? On June 12, 2008, radars transmitted a radio signal out into space, aiming for a solar system within the Ursa Major constellation only 42 lightyears away. The ad, named “Tribe” was also played on television networks in North America and the UK. The radar system used was the EISCAT European space station, which received an undisclosed donation from Doritos for the use of their facility. Sadly, the ad will not reach Ursa Major for around 30 years, so we won’t know if anyone is interested in Doritos for quite some time.
Seeing how scientists and engineers are working to expand access to space as well as find alien life, there could be a market for intergalactic advertisements. Elon Musk hopes to be able to send humans to Mars and eventually colonize it. If there was a way to advertise in space, companies could reach people who decide to live their lives on the Red Planet. The main concern would be to figure out a way to send advertisements into space faster than several decades.
13. Can you imagine smuggling a corned beef sandwich into space?
Long before the golden days of Pizza Hut salami space pizza delivery, astronaut John Young found himself much dissatisfied with the bland dehydrated food sent on space missions. Desperate for a delicious meal, the bold Young smuggled one of his favorite foods into space: a corned beef sandwich. He even shared his corned beef contraband with his co-pilot Gus Grissom, who also had an admitted weakness for the food. The astronauts only managed to take one bite before it began to break up due to gravity. Typically, space food is covered in a thin coat of gelatin to prevent crumbling. Though disappointed, Young said that the sandwich would have tasted great had it not broken down due to atmospheric changes.
While this seems amusing, it actually caused a congressional hearing in which NASA was questioned about the safety of food on their space flights. Crumbs from the sandwich could have entered the spacecraft’s sensitive equipment and caused a deadly malfunction. NASA’s deputy administrator at the time, George Mueller, had to promise more exceptional care for watching for unsafe items being smuggled aboard future missions. Hopefully, the first and last time a congressional hearing convenes over a sandwich.
In a rather unique and beautiful art project, a 2016 contest asked participants to submit an audio recording of their best laugh through a mobile app. Users of the mobile app chose the laugh of Naughtia Jane Stanko of Las Vegas. Once the best laugh was chosen, the sound file was modeled, and 3D printed, creating a tangible object of human laughter. The 3D model of laughter was printed aboard the International Space Station (ISS,) making it the first significant work of art to be produced in space. The project was a collaboration between Israeli artist Eyal Gever and a California company that provides 3D printing technology, including the printer capable of functioning onboard the ISS.
Other artwork has been made by astronauts in the past, with several drawings and photographs capturing the stunning view of Earth from space being created during space missions. Watercolor painting and charcoal sketching have been popular mediums among artistic astronauts in space. Additionally, artwork by notable artists like Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol has traveled through space in the last several years. Another form of art that has been attempted in space is time-lapse photography, which is a lovely way to capture the stars.
11. Turtles went to space to test the impact of space on humans.
There is a long and often sad history of animals being sent into space as the canary in the coal mine of space travel. The Russian space program used many dogs, including the tragic Laika, to test the ability of humans to survive space travel. Even today, various animals are still sent into space to check for muscle degeneration, cosmic radiation, and other issues. In 2010, the relatively new Iranian space program sent turtles into space. The turtles were part of a plan to test Iran’s new spacecraft that also included sending live monkeys into space. Reportedly, both the turtles and monkeys were retrieved unharmed after the test flights.
Interestingly, this was not the first time turtles were sent into space. The Soviet Union sent the space probe Zond 5 on a mission orbiting the moon. The spacecraft contained life-size mannequins as well as a pair of Russian tortoises. Zond 5 spent a week in space before returning to Earth. The tortoises were studied by scientists who determined that they lost roughly 10 percent of their body weight. Even so, the tortoises were quite active and had a healthy appetite. They also displayed excessive contents of iron and glycogen in their liver tissue.
10. Jamestown settlement artifacts were sent into space.
While aviation history is most frequently honored in space flight, whether through wearing Amelia Earhart’s watch or carrying a portion of the Wright Brothers’ Flyer, sometimes other historical moments are celebrated. In 2007, NASA sent two artifacts into space from Jamestown, the original English settlement in North America. One of the objects was a metal cargo tag. This cargo tag displayed the name “Yames Towne,” and commemorates the site of the original permanent English settlement in the Americas. This settlement occurred in 1607 in the colony of Virginia. During an archaeological dig, the tag was found and experts believe it is a discarded shipping tag that fell from a crate coming from England in 1611.
The flight containing these artifacts will have traveled more than 4 million miles throughout space over four centuries. It will travel from England to Jamestown to the International Space Station on a round trip. Given the disastrous and genocidal history of the European colonization of North America, one can only hope that NASA will also send Indigenous artifacts into space soon so that outer space will not bear the same terrible legacy of colonialism that the Earth does.
9. One of the dimes brought to space ended up being worth $5,000!
Astronaut Gus Grissom apparently took the Mercury part of Project Mercury very literally and decided to celebrate it by bringing “mercury dimes” with him into space. The Mercury Dime, which was produced from 1916 to 1945, is so named due to its depiction of the god Mercury in his traditional winged hat. However, there is some debate on whether the coin even depicts Mercury. While Mercury dimes stopped being minted in 1945, it was briefly minted in gold for its 100th anniversary in 2016.
The currency is also often called the winged liberty dime due to the idea that Mercury was instead lady liberty. Lady Liberty donned wings, symbolizing the freedom of thought. This was also regarded as an incredibly beautiful US design, along with the Gobrecht dollar, the St. Gauden, and the Walking Liberty half. In addition to bringing fifty(!) dimes with him aboard Project Mercury, Grissom also carried three $1 bills, a miniature of the capsule, and two sets of pilot wings. During the Project Mercury flight, the coins sank with the capsule, but were later recovered from the Atlantic Ocean. One of Grissom’s dimes went up for sale in 2016 and was expected to fetch at least $5,000.
8. Someone uncovered over 400 unapproved postage-stamp souvenirs in space.
This item got the Apollo 15 astronauts in quite a bit of hot water. Upon landing, NASA discovered that the astronauts had carried over 400 unapproved “souvenir” items with them, which they intended to sell upon returning to Earth. The souvenir items were postage-stamp covers that were numbered and stamped with information about the rocket’s flight to the moon. After the Apollo 15 flight, NASA had to implement strict rules on what could be carried on flights to prevent the post-flight sale of souvenirs from cheapening NASA’s mission and image. NASA has been notoriously strict with controlling advertising on space missions and sales of goods after that.
There’s a saying that comes to mind about this: “We must take only pictures, and leave only footprints.” Although many people would jump at the chance to have a tangible piece of a space mission, it’s detrimental to the institution to try and capitalize on something so special. Not to mention that it could end up causing damage to a spacecraft or even the moon. What if an astronaut decided to take moon rocks from the lunar surface or leave an artifact from the Earth that could interfere with the moon’s atmosphere and environment.
A huge New York Yankees fan, astronaut Garrett Reisman decided to take a piece of it with him into space. Garrett Reisman chose to take a vial of dirt from the Yankees’ pitcher mound with a Yankees banner to outer space during his first mission. During his time at NASA, he flew on three space shuttles, Endeavour, Discovery, and Atlantis, and stayed on the ISS for three months. While on the ISS, Reisman threw a ceremonial first pitch for a Yankees game 200 miles below. A few months later, once he returned to Earth, he was able to throw the first pitch again while physically being in their stadium. As a gift of appreciation, Garrett Reisman gave the Yankees team the vial of dirt and banner that had traveled to and from space.
That wasn’t the only thing Garrett Reisman took into space. He went to school with actress and Broadway star Jane Krakowski. While in space, he and Krakowski frequently exchanged emails. His crew were big fans of Krakowski’s show 30 Rock, so she provided them with a script of the show autographed by the cast which was sent into space while Reisman was on the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
6. In 1977, they sent the sound of herding sheep into space.
As NASA prepared to send the spacecraft Voyager 1 and 2 blasting into space, they equipped them with a shiny golden record. Voyage 1 and 2 were the first human-made objects to leave our solar system. The Golden Record was carefully etched and curated with 115 photographs, 55 different greetings, 90 minutes of music, and 12 minutes of Earth sounds. They carefully picked the recordings and pictures to represent Earth. Why? Just in case aliens found one of the records and decoded it. One of the sounds on the record was of someone herding sheep. Although the quality was not excellent, you could hear the ‘baaa’ sound of sheep coming from the herd.
Interestingly, scientists are using space to herd sheep on Earth! By using satellites, experts are monitoring sheep and cattle in countries suffering from food insecurity. They can determine areas where livestock are or need to be. Additionally, they can identify places to put water supplies, livestock markets, and roads. Satellites are being used to hopefully improve the environmental information services throughout the world. It’s amazing to see just how much can be accomplished both on Earth and in space with satellite technology! Hopefully this method can help a lot of people thrive.
In 2008, NASA and the Daytona International Speedway were both celebrating milestones. It was NASA’s 50th anniversary and also the 50th running of the Daytona 500. To signify the two landmarks, NASA packed three green starter flags on the space shuttle Atlantis and then sent it on its way to space. The track and space shuttle launch pads were reasonably close to each other. Nascar drivers and crews alike enjoyed watching the space shuttles blast off. Once the flags returned to Earth, Nascar waved one of them at the Daytona 500’s start. NASA gave the second flag to the Daytona 500’s winner and chose to keep the third flag for themselves as a keepsake of the memorable year.
Nascar, short for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, was founded by Bill France, Sr. in 1948. This organization is based in Daytona Beach, Florida and holds more than 1,500 races over 100 tracks in 48 US states and in Europe, Canada, and Mexico. The first Nascar race that was held outside of the United States was in Stamford Park, Ontario, Canada which is near Niagara Falls. On July 1, 1952, a 200-lap race on a half-mile dirt track was won by Buddy Shuman.
4. Did you know they left a sculpture commemorating fallen astronauts in space?
During their lunar mission, the crew of Apollo 15 left a small statue and plaque on the moon. The plaque and sculpture were placed to commemorate the 14 astronauts and cosmonauts that had died thus far in the line of duty. While some of them passed away in unrelated things such as a disease and car accidents, several also were killed in aircraft accidents or spacecraft. The tiny statue, the fallen astronaut, was a small aluminum sculpture in a person’s shape. The Apollo 15’s crew members placed the sculpture on the moon’s surface next to their lunar rover. While the statue and plaque were a bit secretive at first, word of the commemorative art eventually spread.
This is a lovely way to pay tribute to the fallen astronauts who made such an impact on United States history. When the “Space Race” between The United States and Russia space exploration first started, it drove the early era of outer space travel. The first moon landing in July 1969 by the crew of the Apollo 11 solidified America’s status as a pioneer of space exploration. It will be exciting to see just how much more NASA will discover in space in the years to come.
In 1985, NASA astronaut Loren Acton brought dinosaur fossils to space aboard the space shuttle Challenger. The space shuttle was equipped with Spacelab 2, which is precisely what it sounds like – a space lab. The fossils were small bone and eggshell pieces from a hadrosaur nesting site. The good mother lizard was 76 million years old. A little over a decade later, in 1998, space shuttle Endeavor took a dinosaur skull to the space station. Once uncovered, both sets of fossils, from 1985 and 1998, were eventually returned to Earth.
Currently, NASA is working on plans to search for fossils on Mars. Scientists believe that 4 billion years ago, before Mars became a dry planet, there may have been life on the Red Planet. In order to determine if beings lived on Mars, researchers hope to be able to collect fossils on Mars and study them to find evidence of ancient fossils. Their first task is to determine where on Mars to send their rover that contains a mobile geology lab that can look for signs of bacteria and single-celled algae. Scientists estimate that those would most likely be indicators of the existence of ancient Martians.
2. A treadmill named after Stephen Colbert traveled to space.
To not lose muscle mass from life in microgravity, astronauts that stay at the ISS must exercise at least a few hours a day. But to contend with microgravity, NASA must make special treadmills that work with people who float. One of those special treadmills is named the Combined Operation Lead-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill, or COLBERT. It is named after comedian Stephen Colbert. He encouraged his viewers to submit his name for the treadmill. It gained public interest in NASA and also bragging rights for himself. To use the unique treadmill, an astronaut must strap into it. With the straps on, it is kind of like wearing a backpack.
These special treadmills are known as Treadmills with Vibration Isolation Stabilization Systems. They give astronauts the ability to exercise without disturbing delicate experiments in the labs on the International Space Station. In 2010, they had to dissemble COLBERT. They stored it in over six bags before being strapped inside of a spacecraft’s cargo module. Once it arrived at the ISS, COLBERT took about 20 hours to be assembled by astronauts. They first placed the treadmill on the International Space Station’s Harmony module. Later, the team moved it to the Tranquility module.
1. What else went to space? The movie The Day the Earth Stood Still.
In 2008, the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still opened both on Earth and in space. While people were able to catch the film’s remake in theaters for the first time, the movie was beamed into space by Deep Space Communications Network. The movie was sent four lightyears away to Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to our solar system. All you needed to do was blast your signal to space and give the Deep Space Communications Network $299. Although their website says you are still able to do so, it also appears not to have been updated in a while.
The Day the Earth Stood Still was a loose adaptation of the notable 1951 film that was set in the Cold War. The 2008 version starred Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, and Jon Hamm. In this film, an alien is sent to Earth to try and influence human behavior. If changing the way humans behave proves impossible, then it’s his job to remove humans from Earth. This film explores the impact human behavior has had on the Earth’s environment. Moreover, how it has caused a lot of damage. It’s an interesting look at how we are directly responsible for how the environment has been declining in recent years.