NEW YORK (AP) – A new rocket designed to send humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond will launch the next …
NEW YORK (AP) – A new rocket designed to launch humans to the moon, Mars and beyond will be launched next year from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. On board there will be a familiar fuzzy figure – Snoopy.
A 5-ounce plush toy version of the daydreaming beagle – wearing a spacesuit designed to NASA’s stringent specifications – holds an important job for Artemis I’s unmanned mission.
NASA uses stuffed animals on flights because when the little guys start floating, it indicates that the spacecraft has entered the zero gravity of space. Since the toy is soft and light, it will not crack anything or accidentally press a button.
The Artemis I mission is scheduled to orbit the moon and then return to Earth in February as a dry run without astronauts, ensuring that all systems work for future manned missions. On board there will also be two Lego figures, part of an educational series.
The upcoming mission announcement coincides with the release Friday of the second season of “Snoopy in Space,” the Emmy-nominated animated series on Apple TV +. In Season 1, Snoopy became an astronaut and landed on the moon. Season two sees him go further in what showrunner Mark Evestaff calls an “epic road trip.”
“We have taken a small step further so that Snoopy is able to go to some of these places that we have not been, such as Mars or Jupiter’s moons or to visit an exoplanet,” he says. “And he does it through his imagination, but it’s also based on actual science from NASA.”
Stephanie Betts, chief content officer at media company WildBrain, said season 1 was the perfect foundation. “Snoopy became an astronaut and was able to take off into space. Well, what do you do with it now? Well, let’s go exploring. Let’s search for life.”
Back closer to home, the lavish Snoopy’s gravity monitoring task – officially called the zero – gravity indicator – is far from the first stuffed toy used by astronauts. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, had a small doll when he launched on Vostok 1.
Since then, an owl doll and an Angry Birds toy have been on the International Space Station, a plush R2-D2 was used as a talisman on a Soyuz mission in 2015, and a stuffed snowman Olaf from the movie “Frozen” has gone up. A plush Snoopy has also been on the space station.
Snoopy has a long history with NASA, starting when Apollo X astronauts Thomas Stafford, John Young and Gene Cernan chose “Peanuts” characters as nicknames – the command module was named Charlie Brown, and the lunar module was Snoopy.
“Someone had the idea to try to bring more interest into the space program. When they came to Apollo 10, they felt the program would get a little outdated,” said Craig Schulz, son of “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz. “For my father, it was probably one of the greatest, if not the greatest honor that could ever be bestowed on his cartoon.”
Charles Schulz, on the other hand, drew strips with Snoopy walking on the moon’s surface. “I did! I’m the first beagle on the moon! I beat the Russians … I beat everyone … I even beat the stupid cat that lives next door!” says Snoopy in one.
NASA and “Peanuts” have often been woven together. The space agency honors its best employees with the Silver Snoopy Award, and a Snoopy doll was aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in 2019.
The sumptuous 10-inch-by-7-inch Snoopy that is being prepared for the Artemis I mission was not the kind you would find on a Target shelf. It is a unique work and carefully designed using only NASA approved materials. Stress test it should be in December.
“The space suit had to meet all requirements and be of the same quality as the astronauts would wear, both in the materials and the approved. So it was a month-long process of going back and forth and back and forth as they considered all the materials used on the spacesuit, ”said Craig Schulz.
In many ways, the reunion of Snoopy and NASA in 2021 reflects the way the two originally worked together to create interest in space exploration.
“Space travel has almost become so normalized now,” Schulz said. “People’s attention is mostly a little weak. So when you inject some of the entertaining Snoopy, you’ll catch the audience.”
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
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