Fast food has literally soared to new heights.
When KFC first launched the TV commercial with Colonel Sanders (appropriately outfitted as an astronaut) speaking at a staged press conference, declaring that the fried chicken monolith would send its new Zinger sandwich into space, it seemed like a Saturday Night Live-esque spoof on NASA. Turns out they were serious.
KFC floated a Zinger to the edge of space on a high-altitude World View Enterprises Stratollite balloon from Spaceport Tucson, Arizona, and even live-streamed everything before liftoff with the Colonel on mission control. The fast food chicken giant later released a takeoff video of what is now officially known as the Zinger 1 Mission. Levitating at anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 feet, the sandwich stayed aloft for four days, during which time KFC blasted off its campaign on social media. As if all this, stamped with a deep-fried version of the NASA logo redone in the chain’s trademark red and white, doesn’t already sound like a sci-fi parody, they actually dropped a coupon. From space. Whoever found the coupon that fell from the stratosphere probably ditched the bucket of Extra Crispy and framed it. I would.
"Holy cow, that's some spicy, crispy chicken moving out at an average rate of 1,000 feet per minute," says the video announcer in a way that would make you wonder whether this is for real if you weren’t actually watching it in action. "The Zinger should arrive at target altitude in about 1 hour and 20 minutes, where the Zinger mission will officially begin."
Chicken sandwiches aside, Zinger 1 actually had a purpose beyond kitschy advertising. World View’s balloons fly where it is too high in the atmosphere for commercial airlines to venture but not high enough for satellites. The company is currently developing balloons meant to stay suspended in the stratosphere for months on end. This was an ideal opportunity to test out its high-altitude Stratollite vehicle in an extended proto flight. Stratollites are designed to reach altitudes of 150,000 feet, right on the fringe of outer space. After the inaugural launch of a KFC sandwich into space, World View foresees these balloons venturing into science by watching over the weather, imaging the Earth below and focusing a telescopic eye on astronomical objects and phenomena. Humans could eventually float to the far reaches of the atmosphere—for science, of course, and eventually near-space tourism.
"The team on the ground here is justifiably celebrating as they watch their months of hard work pay off," the announcer continues excitedly. "This is the greatest achievement in chicken sandwich space travel history. In all my years in this business I've certainly never seen anything like it. What a time to be alive."