Comic book characters are something that have a reputation of inciting envy in their readers, either because of their superpowers or the exciting lives they live in their fictional world. NASA has given us another reason to be envious as it announced on Friday, that it will send a stuffed toy of Peanuts character 'Snoopy' to the Moon as part of Artemis I moon mission. Named Astronaut Snoopy by NASA, the toy will serve as a zero-gravity indicator for the uncrewed flight that is scheduled in early 2022. An image of Snoopy dressed in a bright orange spacesuit was shared by NASA, as it reminded the days when the character served in Apollo missions.
#AstronautSnoopy is no stranger to space. The Peanuts character skimmed the lunar surface as the name of the Apollo 10 lunar module & even caught a ride on the space shuttle.— NASA (@NASA) November 12, 2021
Now Snoopy is going to the Moon as a zero gravity indicator aboard #Artemis I: https://t.co/wUHfUgYWYm pic.twitter.com/t8DFQq6gHi
For the unversed, Artemis I is an uncrewed flight test of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft around the Moon before NASA sends actual humans to the lunar surface. On the other hand, zero-gravity indicators are small items carried aboard spacecraft that indicate when a spacecraft has reached the weightlessness of microgravity.
As per the description by NASA, Snoopy will be outfitted in a custom orange flight suit along with gloves, boots, and a NASA patch for the Artemis I flight. The iconic comic character will accompany three other "passengers", who will be strapped to the capsule to determine the effects actual astronauts will face when they blast off to the lunar surface in Artemis II. In addition to Snoopy, there will be three manikins established in the Orion spacecraft.
The first one, named Commander Moonikin Campos will be outfitted with sensors to measure acceleration, vibration, and radiation data during the mission. The other two passengers called phantoms will be Helga and Zohar, which have been manufactured from materials that mimic human bones, soft tissues, and organs of an adult female. Since Artemis will see the first woman stepping her foot on the Moon, both the phantoms have been designed in female forms because women typically have greater sensitivity to the effects of space radiation. These two passengers will serve another purpose as they will be dressed in an AstroRad radiation protection vest as part of the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment (MARE). This project is NASA's collaboration with the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) to prepare a vest to protect both men and women during their missions.
As part of launch preparations, Peanuts is releasing a new suite of curriculum and short videos with its partner, GoNoodle, to encourage kids to learn about gravity, teamwork, and space exploration while they follow Snoopy along on his Artemis I journey. Interestingly, NASA is preparing a space-themed comic strip with a collection of its selected mementos, which until now includes the doll, silver Snoopy pins and a pen nib from Snoopy's creator Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts studio.
In an official statement released today, NASA revealed that Snoopy was used to encourage the government agency's spaceflight safety initiative during the time of Apollo. Besides, the Apollo 10 command module, which astronauts Gene Cernan, John Young and Thomas Stafford used in 1969 for a final checkout before landing the first humans, was named "Snoopy". In fact, NASA has even created a Silver Snoopy award, which is a high honor awarded to its employees and contractors by astronauts, celebrating achievements related to mission success and human flight safety. Notably, it won't be Snoopy's first ride to space as it hitched a ride on the space shuttle Columbia during the STS-32 mission in 1990.