The people have spoken: a token from Kennywood Park will be sent to the moon's surface as part of Pittsburgh company Astrobotic's first lunar payload, scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2021.
The piece of Pittsburgh ephemera was chosen through a campaign by the Heinz History Center. The token received 51 percent of more than 20,000 votes, outshining options including a micro SD card with the "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" theme song, a piece of a Terrible Towel and a Heinz pickle pin.
The Peregrine Lander will serve as the delivery truck for Astrobotic's payloads, another word for cargo the lander is transporting.
"Once we get to the moon, we become the local utility, so we provide power and communications for the payloads that come with us," said Astrobotic CEO John Thornton. "So we're making it possible for the customer to just focus on what they want to do on the surface of the moon."
Aside from the Kennywood token, the Peregrine will transport a mix of rovers, scientific instruments and exploration devices. Thornton said one company with which Astrobotic is working wants to establish laser communication on the moon -- essentially a Wi-Fi system that can handle an enormous amount of bandwith.
"That could mean 4K, HD immersive video coming back [to earth], or potentially even a VR experience for the moon," Thornton said. "It's a totally new way of experiencing space missions."
Thornton said he'd like to see other Pittsburgh companies collaborate with Astrobotic on the mission.
"I think it's important that Pittsburgh is a part of our story and our mission," Thornton said. "Ultimately, if Pittsburgh can land on the moon, we can do anything."
Thornton said sending a piece of Pittsburgh memorabilia to the moon is a small, but meaningful thing to do.
"It offers a connection to the stars like we've never had before," he said. "The only time you could leave something on the moon previously is if you were an Apollo astronaut."