Pizza pies have been launched frozen into space and have been made by astronauts using the available ingredients on a space station. They have even been likened to the moon in song. Never before, though, has a pizza been said to be "space-flavored."
That is, not until now.
Papa Johns is introducing the "world's first space-inspired pizza," with chorizo as its space-flavored topping.
"Spicy flavors like chorizo have long been a favorite space food among hungry astronauts, which is why it has enjoyed such a rich space heritage," Chris Welch, former vice president of the International Aeronautical Federation and self-titled "spaceologist," said in a statement issued on Wednesday (Sept. 14) by Papa Johns. "But surprisingly, as recent evidence has revealed, its flavors and distinct aromas could really be considered out of this world — with traces of the same aromatic compound thought to be found in both space and chorizo."
According to Papa Johns, chorizo is the world's furthest-traveled sausage. In 1998, Spanish astronaut Pedro Duque of the European Space Agency (ESA) brought León chorizo with him on board space shuttle Discovery, sharing the spicy meat with his crewmates, including original Mercury 7 astronaut John Glenn.
Astronauts have found that, in the microgravity environment of space, where the scents of the meals they eat do not waft "up" into their nose, many foods taste blander than they do here on Earth. Hence, spicy foods — like shrimp cocktail or chorizo — tend to be preferred.
"Papa Johns is a brand that is synonymous with delicious flavor experiences," said Jo Blundell, vice president of international marketing at Papa Johns. "So, our new space-inspired chorizo pizza range and intergalactic marketing campaign will take our fans on an epic taste journey into totally new dimensions."
The new "Planet Chorizo" range combines chorizo's flavors with Papa Johns' pizzas, Papadia and rolls. The space-inspired menu will be available this autumn in China, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Poland, Germany and select Latin America markets. (There are no plans to offer the "Planet Chorizo" range in the United States.)
Recently misrepresented online as a James Webb Space Telescope photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the sun, chorizo has more than its taste to link it to space. According to Welch, who earned his Master of Science degree in space physics and doctorate in spacecraft engineering, slices of the sausage also look just like Jupiter's Great Red Spot, the largest storm in the solar system.
What is more, says Welch, is that there is evidence that the same carbon compounds produced during the drying process of paprika, which is used to give chorizo its red hue, may also be found in space. This may explain why astronauts have reported smelling grilled meats after a spacewalk.
"At first glance, one might not automatically associate chorizo pizzas with space," Welch told collectSPACE.com in an interview. "By making this unexpected link, though, Papa Johns' is stimulating people's curiosity, and if they dig down they can learn about not only the (non-space) chemistry of food, but also the space environment, human spaceflight, space science and space exploration."
The campaign even extends beyond pizza. Chelsie Lane cosmetics has created a limited edition "Chorizo Style" lipstick in celebration of Papa Johns' new range and chorizo's space heritage. The lipstick, which resembles the meat's marbled texture and is infused with a chorizo-style scent, will be available to buy internationally on Chelsie Lane's website. The lipstick launches globally on Thursday (Sept. 15) in the home of chorizo at Madrid Fashion Week in Spain.
Papa Johns' "Planet Chorizo" promotion is the latest to link seemingly unrelated products to space, based on the item being flown into space or otherwise evoking astronomical subjects.
"It says a lot about the increasingly mainstream popularity of space," said Welch. "Recently, we have seen a global soda brand chose to link its latest drink to space, and now a pizza brand is doing the same. Hopefully, it's just the start of the increasing opportunities for the promotion of space and its use to popularize and educate people about the many benefits of space activities and the wonders of the universe."
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.