Domino's Pizza Moon Plan is All Topping, No Base

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I’m all for promoting space science in any way possible, particularly if it can grab headlines. But blatant publicity stunts with little substance? Not so much.

Enter Domino’s, the pizza company with “cosmic” aspirations.

The Japanese arm of the company has announced today that it wants to build the first pizzeria on the lunar surface: Domino’s Moon Branch.

“We started thinking about this project last year, although we have not yet determined when the restaurant might open,” Tomohide Matsunaga, a spokesman for Domino’s, told the UK’s The Daily Telegraph.

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Japan is no stranger to using space travel to further the popularity of their brands. Take the Japanese brewing company Sapporo for example.

In 2008, Sapporo used third-generation barley grown on the International Space Station (ISS) to brew 100 bottles of “space beer.” Back then, I thought this was a stroke of genius, and I still do. In fact, I discussed this strategy in my “Space Beer, Mars Colonization and Other Drugs” presentation at the 2011 International Mars Society Convention in Dallas, Texas, last month.

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The barley was a part of a joint Russia-Japan experiment to see what happens to common foodstuffs when grown in space. As it turned out, there was no difference in the DNA of the “space barley” when compared with its terrestrial counterpart.

Sapporo then held a special space beer tasting in Tokyo. Of course, there was no difference in the space beer compared to the normal beer they produce, but that was the point — produce grown in microgravity is no different from the produce grown down here. Sapporo generated a buzz around its brand and ISS science was thrown into the headlines of the mainstream media. One big victory for the science of growing stuff in space!

Now, back to Domino’s.

Whether the company is aware or not of the current human spaceflight problems, it’s unclear, but they’ve done the math and calculated how much the establishment of a lunar pizzeria would cost: Y1.67 trillion ($23 billion). That’s everything, from launch costs of equipment to opening its doors to paying customers. Considering Domino’s net income in 2010 was only $88 million, they’ll have to sell a lot more pizzas to justify opening take-out restaurants in extraterrestrial locations.

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One thing I do like about this plan is that they realize that to keep costs down, they’ll have to construct the pizzeria dome from concrete consisting of lunar regolith. But that’s about the only part of the plan I like, the rest is just fanciful, yet imaginative, chaff.

In fact, it’s more likely a late Japanese April Fools joke, a suspicion that grows stronger after watching the awful introductory video on their website.

Currently, there are no solid plans to go back to the moon at all, and although political ideologies change all the time, I doubt we’ll see any significant human presence on the moon for many decades (much to Neil Armstrong’s frustration). Sure, Japan isn’t NASA, and they have their own spaceflight program, but I’m pretty certain there is little talk of pizza at JAXA HQ. There’s also the commercial space sector; SpaceX could be hired! Somehow, that seems unlikely.

Oh yes, and there’s nobody on the moon to eat said pizzas. No people plus no plans to put people on the moon equals no point in putting a pizzeria on the moon.

Although I’d love to see a multi-national company think out of the (pizza) box and toward promoting space science Sapporo-style, there’s little substance behind the pizza dough. Sadly, unless the Japanese Domino’s office is drinking more than just coffee during their morning meetings, I see this as nothing more than a strange — and slightly devious — marketing ploy.

At least in 2001, Domino’s competitor Pizza Hut physically delivered a pizza to the ISS. That stunt did everything: it brought awareness to the space station… and they delivered a pizza to the International Space Station! Awesome!

Domino’s, if you did that, I’d be more impressed.

Image: Yes, they even drew pictures (Credit: Domino’s Pizza)