Point of No Return — Forget the launch. What is in the rocket?

Date Published: 
June 16, 2017

Like many of you, I was excited earlier this week to see the baby giraffe finally be born on top of a rocket hurtling toward the heavens, while the Russians hacked into the latest episodes of “Orange is the New Black.”


To be fair, there’s a good chance I got a few compelling stories mixed together there. I’m not as hip as I used to be. Actually, saying “hip” all by itself is probably a sign that I’m just not the groovy dude I once...

But I digress.

Cloudy skies postponed the launch of the sounding rocket from Wallops Island several consecutive evenings, and left people on social media complaining — which, as you know, is the major reason for using social media in the first place. So, really, the rocket launch being delayed is a favor to social media whiners, as they can take a break from moaning about [insert political party here] or [insert gender here] or [insert race of people here] or [insert bad dining experience and subsequent 10-cent tip to a server who had nothing to do with a long wait for a table].

Personally, I’m just going to assume the literal rocket scientists over at Wallops have a clearer understanding of what needs to happen to launch a rocket into space than I do, so the prudent thing to do would be to just keep on top of the happenings over there and wait for the launch to be a “go.”

Playing around online, I found an Associated Press story about another space mission that would be coming around soon, and the cargo that would be along for the ride. Fast-food giant KFC is partnering with balloon maker World View on a launch that KFC said will be the longest controlled stratospheric balloon flight with a commercial payload in history.

That payload? A KFC chicken sandwich.

You might have seen a commercial a few months ago with Rob Lowe dressed as Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Col. Harland Sanders in a space suit. That commercial promised to send the Zinger sandwich into space, and, well, lookie here.

The Zinger is going to space.

The corellation between travel into the great unknown and the taste of a breaded chicken sandwich might admittedly be a little thin, but you have to admit KFC is trying something big here on the marketing end. There will be commercials, print ads and paraphernalia around KFC locations globally focusing on the Zinger’s trip to space. KFC is not making an investment of this nature without looking to capitalize on it long into the future.

Of course, I think they’d get more mileage out of sending a breaded chicken sandwich directly to Uranus, but I’m rather childish. Those jokes appeal to me.

Emboldened, I started searching around for more interesting items that have tasted the kiss of outer space, and found a whole list of them on space.com.

This list focused solely on cargo that has accompanied astronauts to space on NASA space shuttles, so you won’t be getting the famous golf club Alan Shepard wielded on board Apollo 14, or the copy of the Coastal Point Neil Armstrong insisted on taking with him when...

That’s a lie.

Coca Cola and Pepsi continued their rivalry into another atmosphere when NASA allowed both soda giants to test out new cans for a mission in one of their space shuttles. My favorite part of reading that excerpt was that the original plan was for Coke to go up, but PepsiCo heard about it and insisted that Pepsi go along for the ride, as well.

In my mother’s voice, I could just hear, “Well, if Coke wanted to jump off a bridge, would you, too?”

Not to be outdone in terms of competitiveness, I present to you the two Major League Baseball teams who call New York home. When the Mets played their final game at Shea Stadium, fans of the team scrambled for seats, pieces of turf... whatever they could get their hands on as a keepsake of all the memories they had at Shea.

An astronaut brought along home plate from the old field for a space trip, and actually had to trim off the black edging of the plate so it would fit into the storage compartment. Not to be outdone, another astronaut brought along a vial of dirt from the old Yankee stadium. No doubt a scientific study of that dirt would find some of my tears from a game I attended there that saw the Orioles blow a big lead late.

Buzz Lightyear, the beloved astronaut figure from the “Toy Story” franchise, also took a trip on a NASA shuttle, and was utilized as an education device, as NASA used him in videos for school students. I don’t think Woody was invited for the ride, but knowing how those two buddies are, I wouldn’t be surprised if he snuck in to the shuttle via...

I really need to start watching some movies more suited for my age.

Speaking of which, the lightsaber prop used by actor Mark Hamill in the 1983 film “Return of the Jedi” also made a trip to space. This one just makes too much sense, as you have to figure a lot of people who have become astronauts since the 1980s were also big fans of the Star Wars franchise, and were once mesmerized by the thought of space. If not Star Wars, maybe Star Trek?

Well, NASA has that covered, too. Astronauts brought the ashes of Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry aboard the shuttle for one trip, taking him where only a few men had gone before, and no doubt fulfilling a dream for Rodenberry.

One could say he got beamed up one last time.