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Space passengers

Look who flew on Artemis I

Who says NASA doesn’t have a sense of humor?

Snoopy is going back into space, as well as some familiar Lego characters and England’s Shaun the Sheep. The assorted characters all have a role to play on Artemis I, the ongoing moon-orbiting mission, which launched in November 2022. Snoopy, the Lego figures, and Shaun are the only crew on this “unmanned” mission. As the first major spaceflight of NASA’s Artemis program, Artemis I marks the return of lunar exploration, established by the Apollo mission in the 1960s. “In a throwback to the famed Apollo program, NASA officials are letting a very special dog out. Snoopy, a star of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strips that ran from 1950 to 2000, is the zero-G indicator for the Orion spacecraft,” said NASA. For Snoopy’s flight on the Artemis I mission, he is wearing a custom orange flight suit with gloves, boots, and a NASA patch.

Snoopy’s association with NASA dates to 1968 when the agency asked “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz to use the beagle’s image as a safety mascot. Schulz—a general aviation pilot—had Charlie Brown’s dog landing on the moon in a series of comic strips in 1969. The comic strips of “Snoopy on the Moon” captured public excitement about the U.S. achievements in space.

In May 1969, Apollo 10 astronauts Gene Cernan, John Young, and Thomas Stafford traveled to the moon for a final checkout before the lunar landing attempt. The mission required the lunar module to skim the moon’s surface to within 50,000 feet and “snoop around,” according to NASA, scouting the Apollo 11 landing site and leading the crew to name the lunar module Snoopy. The Apollo command module was named Charlie Brown. Snoopy’s first real flight to space was in 1990 when he rode on the space shuttle Columbia during the STS-32 mission.

Four Lego minifigures are riding aboard the Orion spacecraft, cosplaying NASA astronauts, with a crew of six Lego ground controllers supporting the group at home. The four astronauts are Lego characters Kate, Kyle, Julia, and Sebastian.

NASA/ESAIn what has been dubbed a “giant leap for lambkind,” Shaun the Sheep is flying beyond the borders of Shropshire, the town in the United Kingdom’s children’s show. Shaun’s journey is being documented in a series of European Space Agency (ESA) blog posts including one that shows Shaun in “training” for his mission.

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Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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