Since the dawn of creation, man reached toward the sky—grasping and gaping into the incomprehensible void, dreaming one day of somehow possessing the God-like ability to build giant, fiery rockets, and send some really weird sh*t up into the celestial beyond.
Thanks in part to modern technology, Neil Armstrong, and the perpetual eccentricities of the human race, we've been happily launching bizarre things into space since 1947, believe it or not. And here are 23 of the craziest, zaniest, and often not-really-justifiable things we've blasted into the heavens and out of this world, in an effort to spread our weirdness all over the galaxy.
1. Luke Skywalker's lightsaber
The lightsaber used by Mark "Please don't call me Luke" Hamill in Return of the Jedi was sent to the International Space Station in 2007, to honor the 30th anniversary of the original Star Wars film. Also, George Lucas promised to build NASA a Death Star—so far, he hasn't delivered.
2. Fruit flies
In 1947, a box of fruit flies was successfully sent 106 miles up into the Earth's atmosphere, effectively making them the first living creatures we sent to the outer space. Good news for fruit flies, bad news for space pears.
In the fall of '69 (hehe) NASA launched Apollo 12, their second manned mission to the moon and the forgotten middle child between 11 and 13. Along with it came the world's first celestial smut. The astronauts didn't get much sweet print-based action though, as only a select few spreads from the mag ended up stapled inside the crew's checklist, as a practical joke from mission control. But the laughs probably ended when one of the astronauts locked himself in the cockpit for three hours, pretending to "sleep."
4. An empty Russian spacesuit filled with transmitting devices
The impetus behind the terrifying-parts-of-Gravity-esque "SuitSat-1", was to create a makeshift satellite using a repurposed, empty spacesuit. So, they packed the the Ruskie shell full of simple electronics and kicked it out of ISS's airlock like a bum out of a bar door. The suit currently transmits messages from students all over the world into space, because an empty spacesuit floating through the galaxy wasn't sufficiently creepy enough for a country that sees shirtless Putin everyday.
5. The Golden Records
The Golden Records are phonograph recordings included on the Voyager space missions, designed to give an outsider (meaning people not from Earth, meaning aliens) a general idea of the beauty, majesty and overall existence of life on our planet. The contents of the records were chosen by a committee overseen by the legendary Carl Sagan, and feature music from Mozart and Chuck Berry, a silhouette drawing of a naked man and woman, spoken greetings from 55 different languages, and a written message from one-term POTUS and peanut farmer Jimmy Carter. So if we do make contact with something out there, we can at least talk about "Johnny B. Goode."
Those Russians always make things interesting, don't they? Since 1986, all Russian (then Soviet) astro-men and women carry firearms with them as part of their official survival kit. This means A: there are several, possibly Vodka-fueled Cosmonauts packing heat amongst the stars as we speak, and B: any potential alien threats will have to go through Aleksander and the boys, first—пойдем!
7. The extremely functional disco ball
And now in the weird-looking-but-incredibly-useful portion of the list: LAGEOS satellites, which are debatably the most accurate way of determining the position of any location on Earth. Like an actual, funktastic disco ball, the LAGEOS iteration uses friggan laser beams, in this case to gauge position and distances. Unlike an actual disco ball, it never added any magical ambiance to your prom night, probably due to its extremely high altitude.
8. A corned beef sandwich
Debatably the most controversial corned beef sammich of all time (I said 'debatably', please don't lambast me with angry comments), astronaut John Young smuggled it aboard Gemini III in 1965, because he didn't want to go on his FIVE HOUR flight without a delicious corned beef. Young only took a few bites before stowing it away again, but the legacy of his corned beef contraband lasted a lifetime. Young later landed on the moon with the Apollo program, while the sandwich was mysteriously never heard from again.
9. Eli Manning jersey
When I spoke with renowned astronaut and my personal best friend (despite what he says), Mark Kelly back in December, he confided that he brought up several jerseys into space during his many jaunts, including one worn by two-time Superbowl MVP Eli Manning. That's funny, because sometimes it seems as though his passes lack proper gravity (hey-oh!)
10. Amelia Earhart's' watch and scarf
The iconic trailblazer and female aviator tragically disappeared in 1937 during a flight, and was even more tragically portrayed by Hilary Swank in an awful 2009 biopic. But in-between those misfortunes, she was honored when her watch and scarf (separately, on two occasions) were brought by women astronauts (and pioneers in their own rights) into outer space to honor the groundbreaking contributions Miss Amelia made to aerospace.
LEGOs were actually involved in two different space missions in 2011: a LEGO model of the ISS was built by a Japanese astronaut aboard the real thing, and models of the Roman Gods Jupiter and Juno, along with historic astronomer Galileo Galilei were brought aboard a separate mission. Not bad for a bunch of plastic bricks.
12. Zero-G Coke and Pepsi
The high octane, '80s-defining "Cola Wars" hit a high note as their epic battle escalated to galactic proportions. When Pepsi caught wind that Coca-Cola had a deal in place to send a new, outer space-optimized cola into orbit, they paid their way into the game. Despite the big bucks poured into this shameless promotional stunt, it was deemed a failure by the astronauts on board, due to "lack of gravity and refrigeration." Not sure how they missed that one.
13. Two Iranian turtles, a mouse, and some worms (at once)
Though it didn't involve the genetically-engineered, piping hot 'za-loving dudes above, Iran successfully launched two turtles, a mouse, and a bunch of worms into space in 2010. Apparently, they did so to prove they could "compete with Western technology." Right...
14. A cheesy inside joke...
When SpaceX launched their unmanned Dragon capsule, the only cargo was a drum bolted to the floor labeled "Top Secret". SpaceX CEO and potential Bond-villian Elon Musk alluded to the fact that "If you like Monty Python, you'll love the secret," and eventually, his words rang true. Inside the drum was an insanely large wheel of Gruyere cheese, supposedly bought by Musk himself, a direct reference to the classic, absurdist John Cleese sketch. At least they didn't pack a dead parrot...
15. Dead people
There have actually been many, many people (including sci-fi writer Arther C. Clark and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) who've had their cremated remains catapulted and spread into space—and you can, too! What a time to be alive. Companies like Elysium offer space send-offs (with apps to track your dead self) for around $2k. Let's see that creep Haley Joel Osment try to spot you from Jupiter.
16. Pieces of the Wright brother's plane
The brothers Wright and their initial aviation pilgrimage have been a part of space flights since Apollo 11 touched down on the moon with some wood and a piece of fabric from the world's first plane. Many space flights have included pieces of the Wright's planes, as symbolic gestures of mankind's evolution, including the ill-fated Challenger flight, where fabric and wood from the Kitty Hawk-era were actually pulled in-tact from the wreckage.
17. Bull sperm
Surprisingly, sperm behaves differently without gravity—a fact that scientists figured out when they lugged a bunch of bull splooge up above the stratosphere in 1988. Apparently, no g's means decreased mobility for those lil' guys—meaning the contraception of the future may very likely translate into getting your swerve whilst in orbit.
18. Intentional salmonella
In 2007, researchers sent a sample of salmonella into orbit for 12 days—and it came back supercharged and even worse than your average, everyday, earth-bound salmonella. Lesson learned: DO NOT EAT UNCOOKED CHICKEN IN SPACE.
19. Buzz Lightyear
Yep, Buzz Lightyear has actually been to infinity and beyond (meaning space, which is still pretty cool). Scientists, ever-curios, brought the Tim Allen-voiced, delusional Toy Story star onto the ISS, to help school-children learn about the effects of micro-gravity on toys. Good thing they didn't mix this up with the bull sperm that day...
20. Many unlucky mammals (some are still up there)
While it's common knowledge monkeys and dogs were blown into space before humans in order to test the effects of the flight on warm-blooded animals, it's still a little weird and unsettling to think about a nice little doggie sent unwittingly into peril, and it's even more depressing knowing that there are dozens of dead test animals still floating in space right now. Sorry. Also, Walt dies at the end of Breaking Bad. Sorry again.
21. Natural Light beer
Natural Light, the brew of choice for broke college kids, broke young adults, and broke people, generally, became the first beer in space in 2011. Two Natty Light mega-fans (something that's weird by itself...) approached the company with the idea of building a homemade device, and blasting the Frat boy-staple out of our atmosphere. Naturally, the brew-makers readily accepted. The two-hour mission was a big success, but anyone in space actually drinking the beer could result in a potentially harmful wet-burp (due to the lack of gravity). Sounds like every time I've had Natty on Earth, to be frank...
22. Bird poop
The only item on this list that wasn't intentionally brought aboard, The Space Shuttle Discovery had extensive bird droppings on it's shell upon take-off, and still had the same bird droppings on it upon return from outer space. So yes, the sh*t on your car will never come off, even if you literally drove through the piping hot atmosphere. The astronauts never parked their space shuttle under that tree again, that's for sure.
23. Dinosaur bones
Dinosaur fossils were carried aboard two manned space missions, seemingly just for the hell of it. You would think "Dinosaurs in Space!" would be a lot more exciting...but nah. C'mon scientists, even the bull sperm served a purpose!