Much to the chagrin of the American space program, Yuri Gagarin became the first person to be shot into outer space, following the not-so-successful flight of Albert II, who became the first monkey shot into space. In addition to Albert II, other animals that have not enjoyed space flight include mice, dogs and rabbits.
Once space flight became relatively safe for humans to fly, it became inevitable that astronauts, cosmonauts and other space-faring folk would begin to bring objects into space, some of which are useful, purposeful and inspiring while others items are silly, strange and even risky.
Typically speaking, astronauts aren’t considered to be people with interesting and quirky personalities. However, the following list of strange items that have been brought into space break that stereotype, revealing a hidden, playful side to their existence. Items on this list of strange, spacefaring objects include pop culture collectibles, contraband food, x-rated materials and even the insane ramblings of a dictator.
10. The Space Chair
As a publicity stunt shilling a new version of a flat screen TV, JP Aerospace was paid by Toshiba to launch a comfortable looking chair into outer space. The endeavor managed to get the chair up around 98,000 feet into space, using only a balloon. After rising to stunning heights, the space chair disengaged and fell back to earth, quickly disintegrating into that broken chair that you’ve been meaning to fix, but never get around to. The camera used by the team at JP Aerospace survived, managing to land only 12 miles away from the initial launch site. Rumor has it the space chair is still more comfortable than first class on United Airways.
For those not intimately familiar with severe food poisoning, salmonella is a type of virulent bacteria most often found in chicken that hasn’t been cooked properly. The goal of this strange launch was to discover the effects of microgravity on this type of bacteria, ostensibly to find out just how dangerous cheap buffets will be when Outer Space Vegas© establishes their intergalactic gambling empire. Terrifyingly, the salmonella samples became even more effective at spoiling everyone’s day, becoming even more virulent. Scientists speculate that being in outer space fools salmonella into believing that they’re nestled in a human’s gut, spurring increased growth.
8. Playboy Magazine
NASA employees decided to bring an issue of Playboy into outer space during the Apollo 12 mission of 1969. A spread of Miss August 1967, one DeDe Lind, was attached to the checklists affixed to the wrists of Alan L. Bean and Pete Conrad. She was also hidden away in a locker that contained a “Map of a Heavenly Body”, found by Richard Gordon while in orbit of the moon.
One of the most strange and adorable microfauna on earth are the tardigrades, who sound like they were born to show up to class late. These tiny animals, nicknamed ‘Water Bears’, usually measure no more than 1 mm long, but have proven to be the hardiest space faring animal discovered on earth.
After being blasted into outer space, dehydrated, heated to 300 degrees, chilled to -328 degrees and, finally, exposed to outer space, researchers found that 68 percent of the hardy tardigrades survived when rehydrated in the lab – as long as they were shielded from space radiation. Amazingly, some survived the litany of abuse in addition to being irradiated, and still managed to make healthy babies.
6. Triple Barrel Shotgun
Ironically, Soviet cosmonauts were the wild west version of America’s astronauts, blasting into orbit fully loaded with serious munitions. After an incident in which cosmonauts returned back to earth and became stuck on the Ural mountain range, the Soviets figured they needed to arm their cosmonauts in order to prevent them from being eaten by wolves after surviving one of the most amazing journeys that a human being can undertake. As a precaution, the cosmonauts were given arms that don’t mess around, specifically a triple barrel shotgun that feature two bores capable of firing 40 gauge shells and one barrel that accepted 5.45 x 39 mm rifle rounds – one of the most badass space weapons of all time.
5. Corned Beef Sandwich
The Gemini III space mission in 1965 featured John Young and Gus Grissom hurtling into the great unknown, as humans normally do. When in orbit, Young dug into his pocket and revealed something that, to Grissom, was a UFO. Then this conversation happened:
Gus Grissom: What is it?
John Young: Corn beef sandwich.
Gus Grissom: Where did that come from?
John Young: I brought it with me. Let’s see how it tastes. Smells, doesn’t it?
This contraband sandwich was enjoyed by both adventurers before Young slipped the sandwich back into his pocket, where all partially-eaten food should be stored. NASA wasn’t too pleased, but still sent Young back into outer space, where he arrived on the moon during Apollo 16.
4. Crude Capitalism
The first series of space flights for the United States took place during the Project Mercury missions, in which astronaut Gus Grissom piloted the second-ever flight. Due to the fact that being one of the first group of humans to travel into outer space wasn’t enough of a reward, Gus decided to make a little extra cash by bringing three dollar bills, 50 dimes, a few models of his capsules and a couple of pilot’s wings into space, with the idea that all of these items would be worth a small fortune due to the small supply of objects that have been into space and the subsequent demand for these space objects. The extra weight wasn’t helping when he almost drowned in his own space suit, having to leave the items behind. Three decades later, the Liberty Bell craft was recovered along with some of the space dimes.
3. Remains of the Star Trek Cast and Creator
Creator of Star Trek Gene Roddenberry passed away in 1991 , around the time Star Trek: TNG was becoming wildly popular, while actor James Doohan, who played engineer Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott, passed away in 2005 after battling complications due to pneumonia. James Doohan’s will stated that he wanted his ashes shot into space after his death, which was fulfilled in May 2007 through a private rocket which transported his remains into outer space for a brief period of time before they crashed back into a New Mexico desert. Roddenberry also had his depleted genes (sorry) blasted into outer space with Timothy Leary’s ashes in 1997.
2. Luke’s Lightsaber
Because Star Wars hasn’t quite penetrated all media markets around the universe, a human dressed as Chewbacca the Wookie delivered the actual lightsaber wielded by Mark ‘Luke Skywalker’ Hamill in the 1983 indie smash hit Return of the Jedi to the space center. A group of other people wearing Star Wars related clothing eventually received the treasure and transferred in onto Discovery mission STS-120, where it was flown into outer space before returning back to California. This stunt was part of the 30th anniversary of the 1997 release of the original Star Wars, which nobody knew existed until the lightsaber was rocketed into space, leeching off of the rock star image carefully cultivated by NASA for their astronauts.
1. Ruhnama: The Book of the Soul
The weirdest item sent into outer space is thanks to the whims of the dictator of Turkmenistan, President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov. Published in 2001, Ruhnama: The Book of the Soul, is a moral diatribe that all citizens of Turkmenistan have to read under the ridiculous laws of that nation. Dictator Niyazov spent an unknown amount of money to have his book sent into outer space with Japanese satellites, because aliens don’t already have enough to laugh at when it comes to the strange habits of human beings.
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