Pizza Hut now delivers to outer space. Boldly going where no restaurant chain has gone before, the company recently sent a small, vacuum-packed salami pizza into orbit aboard a Russian rocket.
No, the rocket didn't have one of those lighted Pizza Hut signs on the roof. It was a cargo ship ferrying supplies to the International Space Station. Once the craft docked, cosmonaut Yuri Usachov unpacked the 6-inch disc, heated it in a tiny silver oven and took a bite.
"It's good," he said, flashing a thumbs-up sign as crumbs floated by in zero gravity. That's one small, thin-crust pie for man, one giant leap for cosmonaut cuisine.
The mission culminates a yearlong partnership between Pizza Hut and Russia's space program. Last July, the Dallas-based company plastered its logo onto a Proton rocket carrying the main module of the Space Station.
Next, it spent six months working with Russian food scientists to devise a pizza recipe strong enough to withstand the rigors of space travel.
"We wanted pepperoni," says company spokeswoman Patty Sullivan. But when the test pizza was subjected to a simulated space environment, the pepperoni grew mold.
The Russians suggested a favorite local topping: tongue.
Pizza Hut officials blanched. How about salami, they asked. That idea survived the mold test, and the new recipe was deemed ready for liftoff.
How much did the publicity stunt cost? Sullivan won't give an exact figure but says, "We definitely got a better deal than Dennis Tito," the California tycoon who paid $20 million to fly into space. She adds: "It also cost us less than a Super Bowl ad," which averaged $2.3 million for 30 seconds.
Similar stunts are bound to follow. Perhaps FTD will send a bouquet of flowers into the stratosphere. Or maybe newspapers will offer interplanetary delivery, with the paper in a protective bag if the forecast calls for meteor showers.
Another possibility is Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormon missionaries knocking on space capsule doors, distributing religious tracts.
Of course, mischief is also inevitable. NASA astronauts might phone in prank pizza orders for their Russian counterparts, who would then be forced to pay the enormous delivery charges and tip the driver.