The year is 2000. The dawn of the new millennium. Our chilling in the basement. Mom left $20 on the table to order pizza. Pick up the phone and call Pizza Hut right? Right. But what if you are a Russian cosmonaut, floating in space in the brand new, 16 nation International Space Station? There’s no pizza in space right? In July of 2000, the standard for pizza delivery was thrust through the stratosphere.
The plan was to send a 6 inch pepperoni pizza to the space station on board the new Zvezda service module. The American built Unity module and the Russian module Zarya were already in orbit awaiting the delivery. In the months leading up to the launch, the pepperoni was swapped for salami. The pepperoni did not pass the 60 day testing process. On July 12th, 2000, the Zvezda service module and the pizza were launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan atop a Proton-K rocket. The second stage displayed a bold Pizza Hut logo.
At the time CEO of Pizza Hut, Mike Rowlings, had very high hopes for the mission. “This mission, to boldly go where no pizza has gone before, is the result of months of rigorous testing and collaboration between Pizza Hut, and russian crew scientists.” With Pizza scientists and aerospace engineers finally working together, the possibilities were endless.
Mr. Rowlings stated that the time company paid about half as much as they would have for a 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl. It is reported that the publicity stunt cost $1 million, but no one at the Russian space agency would confirm these numbers at the time. It is however believed that $150,000 of the funds were put towards retrofitting the Khrunichev centre in Moscow. The center was originally built as an automobile factory in the 50’s. After the collapse of the soviet union, the space agency’s budget dropped a reported 88%. With the help of Pizza Hut it received a much needed upgrade. Russian rockets are still manufactured there today.
Once on station, Expedition 2 commander Yuri Usachev received the salami pizza. There is footage of him playing with the vacuum sealed pizza. Strict NASA guidelines prohibit astronaut from appearing to endorse products on the space station, so it is unknown if he shared with his American crew-mates.
In 2019, with commercial space growing rapidly, creature comforts are on the front of many engineers minds. How can they make space feel normal? Pizza sure helps. Later this year the terrestrial hotel chain DoubleTree plans to send chocolate chip cookies to the ISS with a new NASA prototype oven. Maybe they’ll send a good old fashioned salami pizza along too.