Pizza party in space: NASA launches pizza kit to ISS for astronauts aboard cargo supply ship

  • Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo ship, the S.S. Ellison Onizuka, launched Tuesday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia
  • It’s carrying a 8,000-lb shipment with apples, kiwi, cheese and a pizza kit
  • Also aboard is simulating moon dust to create items from the space station’s 3D printer and a mounting bracket for new solar wings 
  • A slime mold known as ‘the Blob’ will be used in educational experiments
  • The payload is expected to arrive at the ISS on Thursday 

Move over Domino’s: The latest delivery for the International Space Station includes a pizza party for seven. 

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo ship, the S.S. Ellison Onizuka, rocketed away from Virginia’s eastern shore Tuesday, carrying an 8,200-pound shipment that included fresh apples, tomatoes, kiwi, an assortment of cheeses, and a kit to make pizza.

Hoisted on the company’s Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, it is expected to reach the ISS on Thursday. 

The capsule was named for the first Asian American in space, who died in the 1986 Challenger launch disaster. 

Tuesday’s shipment also includes a mounting bracket for new solar wings launching to the orbiting lab next year, a material simulating moon dust and dirt to create items from the space station’s 3D printer, and an infrared-detecting device that will serve as a prototype for future tracking satellites.

One of the more unusual deliverables is a slime mold, dubbed ‘the Blob,’ a yellowish, spongy mass that has no mouth, legs or brain but still eats, grows, moves and ‘has amazing learning abilities,’ according to Phys.org.    

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Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket lifts off Tuesday, carrying a Cygnus space vessel that will deliver to the ISS fresh fruit, a pizza kit, and a single-cell slime mold that can grow without ever dividing

The Blob, which will be used in educational experiments on the station, is ‘a single cell that grows without ever dividing,’ explains Pierre Ferrand of the French space agency CNES. 

This is Northrop Grumman’s 16th and biggest supply run for NASA. 

The space agency’s other shipper, SpaceX, will follow with a cargo run in a few weeks.

The space station is currently home to NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur and Mark Vande Hei; cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy; Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency and Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA, Japan’s space program.

A Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo ship (above) is expected to arrive at the ISS on Thursday, bearing a variety of snacks, technical equipment and material for experiments

A Cygnus capsule delivery to to the ISS in October brought gourmet foods like Genoa salami, prosciutto, smoked Gouda, chocolate-covered cranberries, and summer sausages.

Some of the comestibles were specifically requested by Expedition 64 crew members Sergey Ryzhikov, Kathleen Rubins, Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, Michael S. Hopkins, Victor J. Glover, Soichi Noguchi and Shannon Walker, who all arrived on the station in November. 

A single-celled yellow slime, called ‘Blob,’ is heading to the International Space Station, where astronauts will study how it learns and adapts despite being brainless

The capsule also transported air tanks to address a persistent leak, a VR camera for cinematic shots of spacewalks, bottles of Estée Lauder skin cream filmed for a social media campaign, and a highly publicized $23 million toilet. 

Dubbed the Universal Waste Management System, the low-gravity commode better accommodates the female anatomy. 

Assuming astronauts are happy with its performance, a version could be installed in the Orion spaceship taking the first woman to the moon in 2024. 

Dubbed the Universal Waste Management System, a $23 million low-gravity commode that better accommodates the female anatomy was among the items ferried up to the ISS by the Cygnus ship in October 2020

Along with the fancy meats and cheeses, the crew members received radish seeds in the October payload to grow the root vegetable on the ship.   

They were able to harvest the radishes in December, representing ‘a transition from basic plant biology in space to a production system’ that could help colonists on the moon and Mars, University of Louisiana biologist Karl Hasenstein said at the time.

With their success with the radishes, peppers and tomatoes could follow in a few years.   

In addition to experiments and equipment, capsules sent to the ISS often include care packages and fresh food to help liven up astronauts’ diet. 

In February 2020, NASA sent a 8,000-pound shipment to the ISS with cheeses, fresh fruit and vegetables, chocolate, Skittles, Hot Tamales and Mike and Ikes.  

One thing astronauts can’t put on their wish list is booze: Alcohol is banned from space reportedly because ethanol can damage sensitive technology.

That hasn’t stopped them from sneaking it aboard ships, shuttles and space stations though: Russian cosmonauts have admitted to smuggling alcohol into space in intentionally mislabeled ‘juice’ bottles and hollowed-out books. 

One even crash-dieted to stash cognac in his space suit and still maintain his weight. 

EXPLAINED: THE $100 BILLION INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION SITS 250 MILES ABOVE THE EARTH

The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

It has been permanently staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000. 

Research conducted aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low-gravity or oxygen.

ISS studies have investigated human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.

The US space agency, Nasa, spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, a level of funding that is endorsed by the Trump administration and Congress.

A U.S. House of Representatives committee that oversees Nasa has begun looking at whether to extend the program beyond 2024.

Alternatively the money could be used to speed up planned human space initiatives to the moon and Mars.

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