Sometimes only the most literal of headlines can properly explain what an article is about. This is one of those times.
Here, then, is the story of three pork-obsessed space pioneers, a polystyrene shuttle named Pigasus I and a payload of Wiltshire’s finest bacon…
There’s no place quite like the pub for generating life-changing, headline-grabbing, humanity-evolving ideas. A few pints of what the Pope drinks and suddenly you’re quitting the office job to start a truffle farm in the south of France, writing a hit Broadway musical about the life and times of Joey Barton, and inventing an entirely new way to eat cheese.
Then, of course, you wake up the next morning, take the ibuprofen, smell the coffee and troop off to work with those grand plans all but forgotten. So when over the course of an evening at a local hostelry some mates told me they were going to launch some bacon into space, I of course smiled and told them it was a fantastic idea.
Yeah, and I’m going to invade Kansas with an army of porcupines.
Except they were deadly serious. They had a plan involving a polystyrene box, a helium balloon and some kebab skewers. They’d done the maths. They’d contacted the aviation authorities. They’d bought the bacon. All they needed was somewhere in Chippenham, Wiltshire, to launch the thing, and that being the town where I live, they thought I’d be the perfect person to ask. Fine. Just one question, people. Why? WHY?
To test the fancy HD cameras that are sold by the company they work for came the answer (the company being Fly On The Wall). Oh, right. Obviously.
Now it just so happens that I’m a member of Chippenham Cricket Club (new players always welcome…) and hence had access to exactly the sort of wide open space they were looking for. No one plays cricket in January, so the launch wouldn’t be scuppered by anyone thundering a very hard ball over the boundary ropes and into the balloon. I agreed they could use the outfield of the 3rs and 4th XI pitch to host the launch (Bill the groundsman would likely have a conniption fit if we used the main pitch).
And so one crisp Saturday morning, these plucky porkonauts pitched up at the club with a car boot full of gear and a lump of meat they were calling a bacon explosion. In truth, it looked more like something I’d seriously regretted eating in a cheap cafe in Budapest about 20 years ago, but each to their own.
There were GPS devices and helium canisters and heat packs and parachutes and video cameras and stills cameras and laptops and over the course of half an hour they all came together to form Pigasus I and its porcine payload. I mostly held onto the balloon to stop it from floating away, and I also cut a few bits of string. Bobak Ferdowsi’s got nothing on me, nothing.
With the canister emptied and the balloon full and the knots tested and the cameras running and the GPS tracking confirmed to be working, we let the balloon go. I mostly expected to see it skidding across the wicket, gouging a small trench across the popping crease before lifting at speed into one of the neighbouring houses and knocking off half its roof tiles. How would I explain that at the next committee meeting?
But no, up it went, travelling at speed towards the grumpy grey clouds. And then it was gone, off into space. We looked at each other. I laughed again at their Star Trek uniforms and said I was going home for a cuppa. They were heading for Newbury, where the bacon was allegedly going to land after its jaunt to the upper atmosphere. Have fun y’all.
So what happened next? Now that would be telling. Why don’t you watch the video below and find out for yourself?
To read the full story of Space Bacon, from its conception through to the planning stages and the launch itself, head here to the Fly On The Wall website. There’s even some advice on launching your own bacon-based off-planet expedition.
Me, I think I’ll stick to playing village cricket, and maybe I’ll steer clear of the pub for a while too.