SPACE ODDITIES

10 Bizarre Objects Humans Sent Into Space


Published on April 26, 2024


Credit: NASA

Space exploration has propelled humanity into the cosmos, but along the way, we've also flung a bunch of bizarre objects at high velocity into the cold void of space.

From cultural artifacts to scientific experiments gone wrong, here are 10 weird things we've launched beyond Earth's atmosphere.

1

Pizza

Credit: Alan Hardman

In 2001, Pizza Hut made history by becoming the first company to deliver pizza to space. They sent a vacuum-sealed pizza to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a resupply mission, allowing astronauts to enjoy a taste of home among the stars.

As NASA has a restrictive policy regarding advertising and product endorsement, Pizza Hut had to turn to Roscosmos, paying the Russian agency $1 million to display their logo on the side of their rocket and deliver a shrink-wrapped salami pizza to cosmonaut Yuri Usachov.

2

Tardigrades

Credit: Schokraie E, Warnken U, Hotz-Wagenblatt A, Grohme MA, Hengherr S, et al. (2012), CC BY 2.5

These microscopic creatures, also known as water bears, are incredibly resilient and can survive extreme conditions , including the unforgiving vacuum of space. Since 2007, tardigrades have been sent into space onboard various scientific missions, and in November 2011, an Israeli lunar lander accidentally crashed on the Moon’s surface, potentially spilling around thousands of tardigrades in a cryptobiotic state that were part of the mission’s payload.

Whether these tough little beings have survived the impact is anyone’s guess, but if there’s a terrestrial species capable of withstanding the harshest environments, it’s them.

3

Buzz Lightyear

Credit: Brian McGowan

In 2008, Disney and NASA collaborated to send a toy replica of Buzz Lightyear, the fictional space ranger from the movie "Toy Story," to the ISS. The toy spent 15 months aboard the station as part of an educational outreach program before returning to Earth.

And after returning to Earth, Buzz Lightyear got to meet its legendary namesake, Buzz Aldrin, who "coached" it for future space missions. The spacefaring toy was eventually donated to the Smithsonian Institution, where it now resides.

4

LEGO Figurines

Credit: Daniel K Cheung

People seem to love sending LEGO figurines on the craziest adventures, whether it’s strapping them to weather balloons, miniature submarines, or even on a mission to Jupiter! A partnership between NASA and LEGO in 2011 resulted in the creation of a very special set specifically designed for space travel. Three figurines representing statues of Galileo Galilei and the Roman gods Jupiter and Juno were sent onboard NASA’s Juno Mission towards the gas giant.

5

Tesla Roadster

Credit: Vlad Tchompalov

In 2018, SpaceX made headlines when they launched Elon Musk's personal Tesla Roadster into space aboard the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket. The car was piloted by a mannequin dubbed "Starman," and it served as a dummy payload to test the rocket's capabilities without endangering a real (and potentially more costly) payload.

Named after a David Bowie song, the mannequin and its shiny convertible will remain in a heliocentric orbit for millions of years , an enduring testimony to humanity’s ingenuity and sense of humor.

6

Dinosaur Fossils

Credit: Jesper Aggergaard

Surprisingly, not even dinosaurs are safe from being sent into space! In 1985, fossil bits from Maiasaura peeblesorum , a duck-billed dinosaur, visited the Mir space station onboard the shuttle Endeavor. And in 2014, a Tyrannosaurus fossil was launched into space as part of NASA’s Orion spacecraft test flights. More recently, Jeff Bezos' spaceflight company Blue Origin sent hundreds of 70 million years old Dromaeosaurus fossil fragments on a suborbital trajectory, as part of its "Club for the Future'' initiative.

7

A Literal Block of Cheese

Credit: Alexander Maasch

It seems like SpaceX might send just about anything to space, as in 2010 it launched a wheel of cheese as part of a secret payload onboard the company’s Dragon space capsule. The only reason it was kept secret is because SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk didn’t want to overshadow the success of the test flight.

The wheel of cheese is a - although debatable - reference to a classic skit from the British comedy show Monty Python's Flying Circus where John Cleese tries to order cheese from a "cheeseless cheese shop." While the joke might not have landed as well as in Elon’s head, the wheel of cheese certainly did, safely returning to Earth along with the company’s space capsule.

8

Luke Skywalker's Lightsaber

Credit: superneox lightsaber

Of course, a real lightsaber should be rigorously space-tested , or at least that’s what anyone who has seen Star Wars would expect. As part of an educational program, in 2007, NASA carried one of the actual Luke Skywalker lightsaber props used in the movies aboard the Discovery space shuttle. The "elegant weapon for a more civilized age" spent a total of 14 days in orbit before successfully returning to Earth - and to George Lucas’s hands.

9

Space Whisky

![]( https://lh7-us.googleusercontent.com/rjTlXhBfNiJ2SFu-acGArRn42HQ5ZtRpkaLq9RsFfUYU4wuYXYQsTjNOqMYduRb9-K4iQ_iN892XwUQCVSUb7gQfHgAaOkjcV_NkyHmjl5EUqtg-5WwP9Xc_z3qm_sCqy0UjIf91Zq9KMgFSH8vfX_-Xjbbz9-3q?cropProperties=%7B%7D " Vinicius "amnx" Amano")

Who'd have thought there was room for whisky research in space? In 2011, a Scotch distillery named Ardbeg sent samples of its whisky to learn how microgravity would affect the maturation process of their spirit , with the goal of improving whisky production back on Earth. Interestingly, after spending nearly three years in space, Ardbeg’s director of distilling claimed that the samples tasted noticeably different from their terrestrial counterparts , likely due to how microgravity affects the process of oak flavoring that is essential for making scotch.

10

A Nuclear-propelled Manhole Cover

Credit: Mick Haupt

Yes, you read that right. According to some sources, the first object sent into space - even before Sputnik - was in all likelihood a manhole cover that was accidentally launched at turbocharged speed during Operation Plumbbob, one of the earliest nuclear tests conducted by the U.S. government in the 1950s.

Robert Brownlee, one of the scientists who worked on Operation Plumbbob, maintains that the accidental spacecraft was propelled at five times the escape velocity of the Earth (around 125,000 miles per hour) during the nuclear blast, seriously dwarfing the speed of any intentional spacecraft made by humanity so far. In fact, it was going so fast that it wouldn't have time to burn up in the atmosphere, and some argue that it carried enough momentum to actually leave the Solar system entirely.


MARVELS FROM THE PAST

10 Ancient Cities That You Can Still Visit Today


Published on April 26, 2024


Credit: Toa Heftiba

Eventually, time makes ruins of all of humanity’s achievements, and not even the most magnificent cities are safe from decay. But not everything is lost! Luckily, many wonders from civilizations past are still standing proud. Ancient cities reinvent themselves through the ages, withstanding the test of time and connecting us to our most distant past.

Join us and explore 10 cities that are more than just historical relics, standing as living testaments to the ingenuity and resilience of humanity throughout the ages.

1

Athens, Greece

Credit: Spencer Davis

Considered by many as the cradle of Western civilization, Athens has a legacy spanning over 7,000 years. From being the birthplace of democracy to the epicenter of art, philosophy, and literature in antiquity, Athens is one of the most enduring symbols of ancient Greek culture.

2

Damascus, Syria

Credit: abd sarakbi

Located in the heart of the Middle East, Damascus was founded at some point during the 3rd millennium B.C., being among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Due to its strategic location and role as a key hub for trade and culture, the city kept its relevance until today. Despite facing numerous military conflicts in the recent decades, Damascus has preserved its ancient landmarks, including the Umayyad Mosque and the historic Old City.

3

Jericho, West Bank

Credit: Snowscat

Another city that can boast being continuously inhabited since times immemorial, Jericho's origins trace back over 10,000 years. Situated west of the Jordan River, its fertile lands have supported human settlement since the dawn of agriculture. The ancient city's iconic walls and archaeological sites offer a glimpse into the dawn of civilization in the region.

4

Varanasi, India

Credit: Shiv Prasad

Situated along the banks of the sacred Ganges River, the city of Varanasi dates back over 5,000 years. According to Hindu mythology, the city was founded by Shiva, one of the major deities of Hinduism, over 5,000 years ago. However, archaeologists now believe the city is closer to 3,000 years old.

5

Susa, Iran

Credit: Blitz1980, CC BY-SA 3.0

Located in present-day Iran, Susa was one of the earliest cities in the world, dating back to 4300 B.C. Disputed among many empires along its complex history, Susa played a major role in shaping ancient Mesopotamian civilization. Today, the modern Iranian town of Shush is located on the site of the ancient city.

6

Byblos, Lebanon

Credit: Nabih El Boustani

Also known as Jebeil, Byblos has a long history dating back over 7,000 years. Situated on the Mediterranean coast, it was a vital center of trade and Phoenician culture, exporting many precious goods to ancient Egypt and beyond. Notably, Byblos is also known as the birthplace of the Phoenician alphabet, the ancestor of all modern Western alphabets.

7

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Credit: Anton Atanasov

The second-largest city in Bulgaria, Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe, with a complex tapestry of Thracian, Greek, Roman, and Ottoman influences. Many archaeological sites within the city are well-preserved, such as a Roman amphitheater and the remains of its medieval fortress walls and towers.

8

Larnaca, Cyprus

Credit: Datingjungle

One of the least-known ancient cities of the world, Larnaca can trace its roots back over 3,000 years. Once the site of the ancient city-kingdom of Kition in the 13th century B.C., it was also the birthplace of the Stoic philosopher Zeno. Although the island endured several devastating earthquakes throughout its history, current visitors can explore its many archaeological sites while enjoying the timeless beauty of the Mediterranean.

9

Luxor, Egypt

Credit: CALIN STAN

Formerly known as Thebes, Luxor is sometimes referred to as the "world's greatest open-air museum," due to the amount of archaeological ruins and Egyptian constructions that stand within the modern city. With a history spanning almost 4,000 years, it saw dozens of kingdoms and empires rise and fall from its walls. While the Valley of the Kings is one of its most popular landmarks, the city has literally hundreds of historical sites worth visiting.

10

Fez, Morocco

Credit: Parker Hilton

Founded in the 8th century during the Idrisid dynasty, an early Muslim kingdom, Fez is one of the oldest cities in Morocco, renowned for its well-preserved Islamic architecture and vibrant cultural heritage. The Medina of Fez, a designated World Heritage site, allows visitors to travel back in time as they explore a large urban area filled with beautiful mosques, ancient streets and restored traditional houses.

Looking for an extra scoop of literary fun?

Learn more with our Word of the day

quibble

/ˈkwɪb(ə)l/