You’d probably be surprised to think that if you were to drive your car straight up towards the moon, you would arrive in “space” in less than hour. The International Space Station’s altitude above Earth ranges from only 205 miles to 255 miles.
To better understand the heavens above, Scientists and Astronomers have done some pretty wild tests. Most of these tests included sending various objects, tools, scientific devices and even animals; among many other things up into space. Here are few strange things that took a trip to the cosmos.
A virtual nation
The space kingdom of Asgardia – a self proclaimed space kingdom founded by Russian billionaire Igor Ashurbeyli – launched its first satellite in November, complete with the nation’s constitution, its national symbols, and data from its 115,000 citizens.
Lots of strange things have been brought to space in the name of science—including salmonella. Two shuttle flights to the International Space Station (ISS) contained samples of salmonella to determine how the bacteria would react to low gravity, and the findings were kind of scary. When the salmonella returned to Earth after being in orbit for 12 days on the space shuttle Atlantis, the bacteria became even more virulent. In the first study to examine the effect of space flight on the virulence of a pathogen, the bacteria that had taken a space trip was three times as likely to kill the lab mice as the salmonella that was kept on Earth in as close to similar conditions as possible.
The Golden Record
Perhaps still the most famous item to be sent on board a spacecraft, the Golden Record was specially made to be included on both Voyager probes launched in 1977.The 12 inch gold-plated copper discs contain greetings in 60 languages, samples of music from different cultures and eras, and natural and man-made sounds from Earth. They also contain electronic information that an advanced technological civilization could convert into diagrams and photographs.
Without gravity, samples of animal sperm don’t work the way they should. Putting bull sperm in orbit resulted in the tiny cells moving faster than usual. Meanwhile, in sea urchin sperm that flew on NASA missions [PDF], the process of phosphorylation screeched to a halt when the enzyme known as protein phosphatase didn’t do its job. In 1979, two female rats that went to space became pregnant but didn’t carry the fetuses to term, and the males’ testes shrank along with their sperm count. Fortunately (or unfortunately), one creature has been able to reproduce far from our planet: the cockroach.
Star Trek Ashes
James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original Star Trek television series (and in seven big-screen Star Trek films), had it rough. All he wanted was for his ashes to be shot into space, a process that seems simpler than it actually is. In May 2007, after a brief flight in suborbital space on the back of a private rocket, the ashes crashed down to the New Mexico desert. A year later, as part of another attempt to send his remains into the cosmos, a rocket carrying them exploded over the Pacific Ocean. Doohan was just trying to follow in the footsteps of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who had his ashes shot into space (alongside those of Timothy Leary’s) in 1997 and also had a tiny portion of his remains placed aboard Columbia mission STS-52 in 1992.
Luke Skywalker’s iconic lightsaber was shuttled to a galaxy far, far away in 2007 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars franchise. The original prop lightsaber used by actor Mark Hamill was loaned to NASA by director George Lucas.
‘Toy Story’ space ranger Buzz Lightyear finally went to infinity and beyond in 2008, spending 469 days in orbit. The 12-inch figure was sent to the ISS by a NASA-Disney Parks partnership aimed at inspiring children to study science.
Pizza Hut wasn’t satisfied with simply being the first company to advertise on a rocket in the year 2000, so one year later they paid the Russian space agency about $1 million to become the first company to deliver a pizza to someone in space. The pizza delivered to cosmonaut Yuri Usachov included a crispy crust, pizza sauce, cheese, and salami (because pepperoni grows moldy over a certain period of time). Extra salt and spices were also added to compensate for the deadening of taste buds from space travel, and it was delivered in a vacuum seal. Usachov gave the pizza a thumbs up.
Monkeys were the go-to animal to catapult into space between the 1940s and 1960s – a total of 32 monkeys were sent into orbit in the run up to human launches.In 2013 Iran said it sent its first monkey into space – a significant step in its spaceflight mission.
An Issue of Playboy Magazine
Some members of the backup crew of Apollo 12 included some Playboy spreads of DeDe Lind, Miss August 1967, on the crew’s checklists, which were attached to Pete Conrad and Alan L. Bean’s wrists as they explored the lunar landscape. Astronaut Richard Gordon, who stayed in orbit around the moon during the mission, also found a topless DeDe Lind calendar hidden in a locker, which was labeled “Map of a Heavenly Body.”