Space is the next frontier. Elon Musk and Richard Branson have made the dream of space travel seem attainable. Of course, sending humans to space is still a long ways off. That's why Kentucky Fried Chicken is sending their Zinger Spicy Chicken Sandwich to space first.
It might seem like a marketing gimmick. In many ways, it is. Why else would KFC sink giant piles of cash into this space flight mission but to entice Inc.com columnists such as myself to write about it? The KFC bucket satellite -- essentially the sandwich's space suit, if you can call it that -- comes equipped with every marketing gimmicks you can imagine: a selfie arm, space Tweet module (hashtag #ZingerSpaceTweet!) and coupon drop. There's even a gold cassette tape with Colonel Sanders' voice, a nod to the gold vinyl record that NASA launched into space in 1977 with Earth sounds, recordings of people speaking in 55 different languages and a message from President Carter.
All that's fun and tweet-worthy. But what's fascinating is that this chicken sandwich space flight might actually help advance space technologies. KFC is partnering with a legit space exploration company called World View Enterprises to launch the sandwich to the stars.
Technically, World View is a near-space exploration company. The chicken sandwich will travel to the Earth's stratosphere, where remain between 60,000 and 80,000 feet for several days. Though the journey is not quite as far as Mars, cruising the stratosphere is still an incredible feat.
How the chicken sandwich will get to space
The Zinger will not travel by rocket or spaceship. It's traveling by high-altitude balloon. The vehicle is called the Stratollite. According to World View's website, it's a "flight system that will enable previously impossible applications at a fraction of the cost of existing technology."
Here's how it works, as described by Verge:
To stay in the upper atmosphere for extended periods of time, the Stratollites are designed to "surf" the high-altitude winds. The vehicles will use data collected by national weather services and also by its own onboard instruments to determine which direction the upper atmosphere winds are headed. The Stratollite can then shift its altitude to ride these winds and remain in the same general location over the Earth. Such a technique will allow the balloon to fly in a circle that's about a few miles across.
According to a press release, previous Stratollite missions have lasted 12 hours max. The KFC Zinger Chicken Sandwich will be in flight for four days. Much can be learned from the Zinger's near-space flight that could be hugely beneficial to whole host of industries. Stratollites could deliver Internet and supplies to troops or first responders to national disasters. They could help track and capture severe weather patterns. And the fancy balloons can simply help researchers have a better understanding of our planet.
That's not all. World View hopes to one day bring humans to the stratosphere in one of their high-tech balloons. For $75,000 a ticket, the experience will be a luxurious one, complete with wifi, a bathroom and a bar. (Verge explains the whole vision.)
So yes, KFC is launching this sandwich to space for pure publicity. But it's also helping to finance the development of World View's R&D. If this gimmick helps collect valuable data to advance space technologies, why not?
But before humans can go to space, we gotta start small. With chicken sandwiches.