Pepsi Challenger Disaster
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Pepsi Challenge Program refers to a series of high-profile experiments performed by NASA, the National American Soda Association, beginning in the early 1980s. Initially successful in spite of its great expense and irritating nature, the disastrous deaths of seven sodanauts in 1986 shocked the world.
Many believe that the disaster was caused by the unseemly haste of NASA to prove American soft-drink superiority in the Cold War, or the Cola Wars, or somesuch. The Soviet product Kyoakah-Kyolaj (identifiable by its Red label) had already successfully captured the vital dog demographic in the soda market, whilst the Americans had only achieved substantial market penetration in the monkey and marine test pilot sectors. What's more, top Soviet soft drink executive Trofim Lysenko had recently announced the launch of New Kyoak, a soda that drinks you.
In order to pull ahead in the Soda Race, the Americans announced the launch of the Pepsi Challenge Program, which would tour shopping centres, malls and other public places. They would then offer passers by a taste of two seemingly identical beverages, Kyoakah-Kyolaj and Pepsi Cola, and ask them which drink they preferred the taste of. If they picked Pepsi, they were loudly ordered to buy more Pepsi. If they picked Kyoak, the testers would then loudly attack the consumer's patriotism, accusing him or her of Communist sympathies, or homosexual tendencies or of finding Ronald Reagan's folksy manner contrived and unconvincing. The consumer in question, thus shamed/annoyed/indifferent, would leave immediately, presumably in order to buy and consume large quantities of Pepsi Cola.
On January 28th, 1986, just outside a shopping centre in Houston, the Pepsi Challenger ended in tragedy, 73 seconds into its tenth mission. The Challenger's captain had found a
mark passer by to challenge, had blindfolded him, and was in the process of opening a can of Pepsi, when witnesses observed a "plume" at the top-left hand side of the can. Within split seconds, the captain, the mark Pepsi Challenged passer by and five gawpers standing nearby were engulfed in a spray of cola.
The captain and the
mark Challenged both died instantly of terminal embarrassment. The other five were on their way to five different job interviews. Since the accident had ruined their interview clothes and the dried-on Pepsi was attracting flies, none of them got their respective jobs. Unable to support themselves, they all starved to death.
President Reagan appeared on TV that evening, and praised the heroic sacrifice of the seven dead sodanauts - much to the annoyance of the five still living, who had several weeks of slow starvation yet to go before they died.
The President convened a Commission on the Pepsi Challenger Accident, to find out why he couldn't get Tang no more, but mostly to discover the cause of the explosion of flavour that killed the seven. The Commission consisted of deceased former president Woodrow Wilson, Cola inventor John Stith Pemberton, clothing stain expert William J. Clinton, first man on the moon Tintin, self proclaimed UFO abductee Jethro P. McGuckett, Pepsi frontman Michael J. Fox and in a surprise move, Kyoakah-Kyolaj spokesanimation Max Headroom.
There were some months of hearing evidence and some more months of deliberation followed by a week or two of out-and-out procrastination, then a day or two of being pleased that the whole thing was over, and then a moment of horrible realisation that they'd forgotten to publish the report. Then, they published the report.
In it, they blamed a combination of a faulty batch of Pepsi containing greater than usual concentrations of additive 338, which combined with the unusually volatile plastic in the lining of the can. This reaction created an excess of hydrogen, which dissolved into the Pepsi, increasing its explosive pressure. Et voilà - la kaboum!
The report also included two minority reports from dissenting members of the committee. The first by McGuckett reads in part "I's reckon as et was how that thar feller done shook it up, is whut cawsed et. Yup."
The second, by Headroom, reads in part "it was caused, caused, caused, c-c-c-caused, cau- cau- caused by b-b-b-b-by... ah, what they said."
The Committee also unanimously ruled the Tang question to be unanswerable and all went home to download prOn.