A historical feat is taking place on Thursday, one that will wow space and fried chicken aficionados alike: a Kentucky Fried Chicken sandwich is traveling to the edge of space aboard a balloon. The fried chicken will float in the upper atmosphere for a few days, before traveling back to Earth at a speed of 2,000 feet per minute.
The mission may seem like a gimmick, but it’s actually going to be an important step for World View Enterprises, the high-altitude balloon company that’s launching the sandwich. World View is using a balloon, called the Stratollite, that’s designed to float about 100,000 feet in the air. This high-altitude vehicle is designed to eventually stay up into the stratosphere for months to a year at a time, providing communication services or scanning the Earth’s surface. But up until now, the Stratollite has only flown between six and 12 hours. This time, it will fly for four days — the longest the balloon has ever been up in the air.
The vehicle is designed to “surf” the upper atmosphere’s winds, shifting its altitude so it can remain in the same general location over the Earth. During the chicken flight, World View will test how several parts of the Stratollite — like its altitude control system, communications systems, and solar power technology — will work together over the course of multiple days. The flight will be recorded by five different cameras, and at some point, the sandwich will take a selfie.
World View also wants to eventually send paying customers up in these high-altitude balloons — so they can gently float in the upper atmosphere for five to six hours, overlooking the curvature of the planet. Tickets are already available for $75,000 and include a ride in a fancy cabin with large windows, Wi-Fi, a bar, and a bathroom.
But before that happens, the KFC sandwich has to climb somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 feet for a few days. The launch was scheduled for June 21st, but it was postponed for weather conditions. The vehicle is supposed to take off from a remote site 40 miles out of Tucson, Arizona, and World View is streaming the event. This is the first time the company has done a live broadcast.
Update June 28th, 2017 04:37ET PM: This post has been updated to reflect the new launch time.