A Brief History of Pizza in Space

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Most astronauts would probably love to enjoy a slice of pizza in the final frontier. Unfortunately, serving pizza in low-earth orbit is a fairly difficult task, but this hasn’t stopped a few hungry astronauts from trying over the years.

According to Vickie Kloeris, a food scientist employed at the Johnson Space Center, pizza isn’t likely to join the ranks of more conventional NASA cuisine anytime soon. Crumbs are the main culprit: Imagine hundreds of itty-bitty bread particles whizzing around sensitive equipment in reduced gravity. “You can’t get a crispy crust,” she says. “It’s always soggy or chewy.”

But in 2001, Pizza Hut decided to take one giant leap for mankind by becoming the first company to make a delivery to the International Space Station. “This [is a] mission to boldly go where no pizza has gone before,” boasted marketing officer Randy Gier.

This stellar marketing stunt was made possible with the help of several Russian food scientists who collaborated with Pizza Hut to produce a space-ready six-inch cheese and salami pie (pepperoni lacked the necessary shelf-life). Nearly a year after the project began, one very special pan pizza was brought to the Station, warmed in its oven, and handed to Russian cosmonaut Yury Usachev, who gave the effort a solid thumbs-up.

Since then, other companies have followed suit and sent their own pizzas into orbit, albeit with the use of very different tools. In 2012, the Lithuanian chain Cili celebrated its 15th anniversary by strapping a ham and vegetable pie to a meteorological balloon and filming its journey out of Earth’s atmosphere.

The very next year, the feat was repeated by a rock band called “Anamaguchi"—this time with a slice of New York City’s inimitable pizza, as a way to promote their new album Endless Fantasy. If you’d like to see the resulting footage, check out this clip (skip to the 9:30-mark for the actual launch):

In May 2013, NASA partnered with Systems & Materials Research Corporation to develop a machine that could forever change the dining options of hungry, hungry astronauts: the 3-D food printer.

This revolutionary device stores an array of fats, proteins, scents, and other ingredients which are then spat out in a predetermined order to create various entrees. Since pizza consists of homogenous layers stacked directly atop each other, it was the perfect candidate for some of the incredible machine’s earliest tests. 

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March 14, 2014 - 1:00pm
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