For some countries, the space race is all about humble beginnings.
As SpaceX flew the first crew of all-private astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on the other side of the world, a tasty dish of "pipe" kebab from Adana, a city in southern Turkey, was launched into the stratosphere on Tuesday.
Yaşar Aydın, the owner of a kebab restaurant, organized the demonstration with the assistance of local entrepreneur İdris Albayrak. Albayrak, a space engineering student, oversaw the entire launch into the stratosphere, Daily Sabah reports.
The pipe kebab, a new popular dish in Adana made of minced lamb ribs wrapped around a steel pipe instead of skewers to keep it "juicy", was placed in a special box designed to withstand the extreme temperatures in the sky. Then, the box was mounted to a helium balloon, complete with cameras and a tracking device.
The pipe kebab was, of course, the show-stealer. Accompanied by side dishes like onions and salads, it was launched to space, where it enjoyed the idyllic scenery of southern parts of Turkey.
A humble beginning
The kebab was launched on April 12, the International Day of Human Space Flight. It's the anniversary of the first human space flight, performed by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. On April 12, 1961, Gagarin launched into space aboard a Vostok 3KA spacecraft, atop a Vostok-K rocket, from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and orbited Earth once in one hour and 29 minutes at a maximum altitude of 187 miles (301 kilometers), making him the first human to orbit Earth. The kebab had a rather similar mission.
A box full of pipe kebabs was sent into space amidst cheering and puzzled looks from observers. After a 3-hour journey, the balloon, which had risen around 24 miles (38 km) above the land, popped and plunged into the sea off the coast of Hatay, a southern Turkish province, with the help of the parachute.
Having tracked the flying kebab, Aydın and his team were able to recover the box, with its content substantially intact. They were surprised to see that the fish had evidently nibbled on some of the kebab, which is actually quite spicy.
Aydın made several humorous comments following the demonstration. "I think aliens sent it back because it had too much pepper. I will send a dish with less pepper next time,” he joked after retrieving the box.
The first kebab in space?
Aydın also vowed to continue his efforts to shoot the dish further into space. "I am a person who always likes firsts, and I plan to have many other different projects. As I'm a kebab maker, my projects are always about kebab," Aydın said, according to a report by the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet. "We were able to launch the kebab to a certain level of the atmosphere right now, but maybe we will aim to raise it even higher in the future. We will deliver this kebab all over the world."
Overall, the kebab was unable to go beyond the atmosphere, which is understandable given that a helium balloon was literally carrying the weight of the whole project. To reach space, it would have to go 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level and cross the Karman line, which is the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space.
So, while the demonstration wasn't able to snatch the title of "The First Kebab in Space", it's likely that it's the only kebab that has ever gone this high. Perhaps, if it is allowed inside the capsule that will be sent to the ISS or even the moon next, it may be able to reach farther frontiers of space, alongside humanity.