The Snoopy toy dog from the Peanuts comic book series, which is very popular in the USA, is now flying to the Moon aboard the Orion spacecraft. The toy was dressed in a bright orange spacesuit on Earth so that the dog looked like an authentic astronaut. But behind the screen of interesting fun lies an important function – Snoopy serves as a “Zero Gravity Indicator” (ZGI). So that the toy does not fly around the capsule and is constantly in the field of view of the video camera for observation, it is tied by the foot.
“I’m sorry, Snoopy, that they had to put you on a leash so that you ended up in the Orion capsule now,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson.
Traditionally, zero overload indicators are installed on crewed spacecraft as a visual sign for astronauts that they have reached orbit. The crew of Artemis I Orion consists of Snoopy, four LEGO minifigures, Shaun the Sheep and three manikins.
For the next 25 days, Snoopy will float aboard Orion as it makes a close flyby of the lunar surface and then flies far beyond the Moon, moving farther away from Earth than any spacecraft built for astronauts. And then take a course home to check a safe landing on the Earth. The return is scheduled for December 11.
Snoopy’s 50-year service at NASA
Snoopy has been associated with NASA since 1968. Then the space agency turned to Peanuts artist Charles Schulz to get permission to use his comic book dog as a safety mascot because of the tragic event that claimed the lives of three astronauts during a fire inside the Apollo spacecraft. In the same year, NASA introduced the Silver Snoopy Award, which is presented to members of the NASA workforce whose outstanding achievements contributed to mission safety and success during human spaceflight.
In 2018, 50 years after Snoopy first entered service for the U.S. Space Program, NASA and Peanuts Worldwide expanded the use of the toy dog to help promote NASA’s Artemis missions and their ongoing efforts to engage students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities. Peanuts has since granted licenses to companies such as Hallmark to produce Snoopy dolls in spacesuits, including dolls that were delivered to the International Space Station. One of these dolls was created by order as a ZGI inside the Orion capsule.
To turn Snoopy into an astronaut and a zero overload indicator, Peanuts turned to the famous costume designer Martin Izquierdo, specializing in miniatures. Izquierdo, together with Ted Southern, president and CEO of Final Frontier Design, a firm that develops parts of spacesuits for NASA and private space companies, created a toy that fully corresponds to the NASA order.
Earlier we reported how NASA engineers are preparing a feast with 200 liters of beans in honor of the launch of Artemis.
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