May 22, 2001 -- It may not have been "oven-fresh" but cosmonauts on board the International Space Station were recently able to skip their usual dehydrated fare and dine on free-floating salami pizza.
Rather than riding by delivery pouch in a car or bicycle, the Pizza Hut 6-inch pizza was vacuum-sealed and sent to space in March aboard a Russian rocket assigned to resupply the International Space Station.
Yuri Usachov, a cosmonaut and commander of the station was the first to have the honors.
"The cosmonauts heated the pizza in a space oven so it came out hot," explained Patty Sullivan, a spokesperson for Pizza Hut. "Yuri was bobbing it around on his hands," she said, describing a video of Usachov's meal.
Usachov's munching was recorded on tape that was recently shipped back to earth by rocket and delivered to Pizza Hut representatives. The company reportedly paid about $1 million for the stunt and to emblazon a 30-foot tall Pizza Hut logo on a Russian proton rocket in July 2000.
"From this day forward, Pizza Hut pizza will go down in history as the world's first pizza to be delivered to and eaten in space," said Randy Gier, chief marketing officer, Pizza Hut, Inc.
Saltier, And No Pepperoni
While Sullivan reports that Usachov enjoyed the pizza, it wasn't exactly like what Earth-bound customers can buy. The pizza was seasoned with extra spices, especially salt, since it's known that taste buds become a little dulled in space. And although pepperoni is the chain's most popular topping, the company settled for salami since pepperoni did not preserve well during the required 60-day test: it grew mold.
This isn't the first time advertisers have touted their products in space. In 1996 Pepsi paid the Russian aerospace program a seven-figure sum to have cosmonauts inflate a man-sized replica of a soda can aboard the now defunct Mir space station.
In 1997, Russian cosmonauts filmed a commercial for an Israeli milk company on board the Mir. And in the early NASA years, Tang capitalized on the fact that 'right-stuff' astronauts sometimes sipped the orange drink in space.
NASA: No Pizza Hut Pizza
NASA does not permit advertisements on its spacecraft, although some legislators have called for changes in that policy to help bolster NASA's funding. NASA's policy meant that when the pizza was hot out of the oven more than 200 miles above Earth, the U.S. astronauts were out of luck.
"Since NASA astronauts aren't allowed to participate in commercial endeavors, they could smell it but couldn't eat any," says Sullivan.