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Seemingly as a joke, Elon Musk suggested in a tweet that the first payload of Falcon Heavy demo flight would be his Midnight Cherry Tesla Roadster.

The first payload of Falcon 9 with a Dragon test article was a wheel of cheese (playing off Monty Python's Cheese Shop skit).

Many assumed he was joking, so of course he did it.

Roadster in a fairing

Roadster on a payload adapter

In the annals of space history this has to pretty high up there in ridiculous payloads. To be clear, this is totally awesome. And playing Space Oddity (Must be Hadfields ISS version) till the battery runs out is even better! In space no one can hear your stereo playing music, but who cares!

Are there other examples that are as silly?

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    $\begingroup$ This is a list question, so is of dubious value. One item on the list: A makeshift golf club and a golf ball brought to the Moon. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Jan 1 '18 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe Fixed. And agree, it won't work or matter, this one is all about the sentiment. And it ignores a key fact! THEY ARE LAUNCHING a CAR, just because they CAN! $\endgroup$ – geoffc Jan 1 '18 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ The gorilla suit youtu.be/f0lpiXAHuyA?t=23 had to have been a small component of some payload at some point, but are you asking about a primary payload? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 2 '18 at 0:39
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    $\begingroup$ @uhohYOu make an excellent point. I think I mean silliest payload in general, trending towards primary payload. After all, personal effects are probably pretty silly in some regards, and are on every mission to the ISS. So I do not want a list answer more of, something even sillier than a car. $\endgroup$ – geoffc Jan 2 '18 at 1:09
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure if this is along the same lines. But, there've been a lot of silly payloads on balloon launches which have "technically" gone in "space". $\endgroup$ – Kuldeep Barad Jan 2 '18 at 17:10
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Update: February 24, 2018

The 'Disco Ball': Created by Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck, the Humanity Star is a geodesic sphere made from carbon fibre with 76 highly reflective panels. It spins rapidly, reflecting the sun’s rays back to Earth, creating a flashing light that can be seen against a backdrop of stars. Visible for a few seconds, every 90 minutes, each night, for the next several months.

Criticisms: Wikipedia, Caleb Scharf in Scientific America.

Oh The Humanity!

Update: February 21, 2018

Throughout history a number of odd or useless things have been sent into space. Commercial ventures seem to top the list for 'bad ideas' placing profit and sanity over professionalism and safety.

Examples are:

In 2005 a gold-plated scandium six-iron golf club from Element 21, several golf balls, an equipment bag, tee and specially-built platform were hauled to the station last September on a Russian space freighter.

See anything wrong with this picture?

Four, or five million dollars damage

Indeed there were delays approving the stunt and it was cancelled eventually due to safety concerns. The idea was that the balls were equipped with transmitters that would enable golfers to follow its flight around the world at the company's Web site, because that's something golfers would like to do.

Suggested by user "Organic Marble" are the Coke dispensing machines and the Pepsi can shaped inflatable.

The yellow tinted Coke machine, an unfortunate color choice considering where the water comes from.

Coke or Peepsee?

Later flights included a more traditional color scheme with a new set of problems.

It says: "Please insert 16 Quarters, or 40 Dimes, or 80 Nickels, or ... Did any of you bring any change?

The machine also included a number of complicated accessories necessary for its operation. Personally autographed photo of Vladimir G. Titov examining the refills for the pop machine.

Vladimir Titov

Rare (and low resolution) footage from YouTube showing BTS of the inflatable Pepsi can commercial, with interviews and extra info (15 mins.). Video footage of the can and banner was shot both inside and outside Mir space station but the commercial never aired because Pepsi later changed the design of the can.

Inflatable Pepsi can

You would really have to be noodles to think Nissin Noodles would be a good idea for space consumption, boiling water, chop sticks, or just mash them and eat it like toothpaste.

Nissin Noodles, at least they didn't think they meant Nissan.


Earlier space flights were kinder to their human occupants, it was non-human lifeforms that suffered indignities.

The Russian Tortoise is an endangered species so it seems as though a better choice could have been made. The launch of Fruit Flies didn't seem particularly adventurous.

Here is a photo of Miss Baker, she was accompanied by Neurospora, samples of human blood; E. coli; onions; mustard and corn seeds; Drosophila pupae; yeast, and sea urchin eggs and sperm.

Which is sillier, traveling with E. Coli or urchin sperm?

Miss Baker

The reason cheese was sent into orbit is because it was a maiden flight with many untested calculations, so they didn't want to risk anything too valuable.

Other silly things included:

  • The Astronaut's Checklist (Link to a .PDF of one of the EVA Checklists) for Apollo 12 had centerfolds of Playboy Playmates added to it. The photos and captions are:

    • Angela Dorian (Miss September 1967) with the line "Seen any interesting hills & valleys?"

    • Reagan Wilson (Miss October 1967) was displayed as a "Preferred tether partner."

    • Cynthia Myers (Miss December 1968) and "Don't forget—describe the protuberances."

    • Leslie Bianchini (Miss January 1969) and "Survey her activity."

    • DeDe Lind (Miss August 1967) titled "Map of a Heavenly Body".

  • Coca Cola spent \$250K followed by Pepsi who spent $14M to develop cans for dispensing their beverages in space. The Challenger shuttle was sent into orbit in 1985 with four cans of each cola. The five-person crew tested the drinks out and hated both brands.

  • I'm not so sure it was silly to take Luke Skywalker's Light Saber into space and the Russians carry TP-28 triple barreled guns in case they run into bears and wolves upon landing.

  • The most useless thing was a shellaced hamburger.

  • Buzz Lightyear joined the crew of the STS-124 space shuttle mission, launched May 31, 2008.

Also silly was a Obama Bobblehead but it didn't pass the stratosphere and it's reason was to raise funds for reelection.


Update: February 21, 2018 - Starman Payload. New upload to Musk's Instagram account.

Starman seated in a red Tesla Roadster mounted for launch in the  payload capsule.

Update: February 6, 2018: Here's the video, car closeup at the end.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm guessing the payloads you've mentioned so far had been carefully chosen and justified at the time on a scientific basis, so I'm not sure any of them count as "silly". Maybe think more along the lines of cheese? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 2 '18 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh - Everything has a reason, if they can sell an extra 100K cars they'll make a lot, half that and they'll lose a bit. I added the 'cheese reasoning' and a bigger list (starting after the photo); it's beyond silly to the extent of useless and not particularly funny. $\endgroup$ – Rob Jan 2 '18 at 5:28
  • $\begingroup$ You can find a picture of the space coke machine in my answer to this question: space.stackexchange.com/questions/10350/… $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Feb 22 '18 at 1:38
  • $\begingroup$ Also the giant pepsi can launched from mir here space.stackexchange.com/questions/19611/… $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Feb 22 '18 at 1:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Organic Marble - Thanks for your interest in my answer and your suggestions. I did my own research and obtained my own images (instead of stealing yours) and credited you in the answer. Also added a fair bit more ... 👍 Thanks again. $\endgroup$ – Rob Feb 22 '18 at 5:53
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Samantha Cristoforetti in a Star Trek uniform in the Cupola of the ISS definitely is up there in my book, but no, I think it's fair to say that the Tesla Roadster is the most gloriously silly thing to be put into space so far!

From a strictly justified point of view, the roadster is a heavy Static Payload for use in testing the Falcon Heavy's ability to lug weights.

Ordinarily for a mission like this they'd have simply launched a big chunk of concrete as a dummy weight, but since Elon Musk is a bit of a dreamer and wants to do things people will remember, they traded the dummy weight for a car in one of the best PR stunts I've ever seen or heard of.

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    $\begingroup$ There was also that time they sent a gorilla suit to the ISS... youtube.com/watch?v=IFc1XWEkhpM $\endgroup$ – Tristan Feb 8 '18 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ Well put. The test launch had to have something in it, so that engineers could get data on performance with a payload of a reasonable mass. The fact that Musk has a sense of humor and ego and many other qualities means that this was an awesome choice. And the Douglas Adams nod, to boot ! $\endgroup$ – MarsJarsGuitars-n-Chars Feb 9 '18 at 15:52

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