The identity of the first astronaut to blast off aboard the Artemis I mission to the moon has been revealed – and it’s none other than Shaun the Sheep.
A figurine of Aardman’s beloved character will be placed aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft before liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA later this summer.
The mission, which will include the European Space Agency’s (ESA) European Service Module for the first time, is to circle the moon before returning to Earth.
The spacecraft will be controlled by agents on the ground, while Shaun will keep everything in “sheep form” inside the Orion capsule.
“This is an exciting time for Shaun and for us at ESA,” said Dr David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA.
“We are very pleased that he was selected for the mission and we understand that while this may be a small step for a human, it is a giant leap for the lamb.”
Shaun’s spacecraft will enter low Earth orbit before its upper stage fires, taking it into a translunar orbit. The Orion capsule will then perform a flyby of the moon, using gravity to gain speed and propel itself 43,500 miles (70,000 km) past the lunar satellite, before descending back into the Atlantic Ocean for up to 42 days. later.
Shaun the sheep also took a flight on the Airbus ‘Zero G’ A310, on one of his parabolic flights which recreates the ‘weightless’ conditions of those experienced in space
Shaun and the Orion will be launched by NASA’s Space Launch System – a 322-foot (98-meter) tall, $23 billion mega-rocket – later this summer
NASA’s Space Launch System: the largest rocket ever made
Space Launch System, or SLS, is a launch vehicle that NASA hopes will bring its astronauts back to the moon and beyond.
The rocket will have an initial lift configuration, slated for launch in the early 2020s, followed by an improved “evolved lift capability” that can carry heavier payloads.
Space Launch System Initial Lift Capacity
– Maiden flight: mid-2020
– Height: 322 feet (98 meters)
– Lifting: 70 metric tons
– Weight: 2.5 million kilograms (5.5 million pounds)
Space Launch System Advanced Lifting Capability
– Maiden flight: Unknown
– Height: 384 feet (117 meters)
– Lifting: 130 metric tons
– Weight: 2.9 million kilograms (6.5 million pounds)
Shaun and the Orion will be launched by NASA’s Space Launch System – a 322-foot (98-meter) tall, $23 billion mega-rocket.
The spacecraft will enter low Earth orbit before its upper stage fires, taking it into translunar orbit.
The Orion capsule will then perform a flyby of the moon, using its gravity to gain speed and propel itself 43,500 miles (70,000 km) beyond and around the lunar satellite, before descending back into the Atlantic Ocean to 42 days later.
In preparation for this flight, Shaun began an astronaut training and familiarization program with the Orion spacecraft in 2020.
He traveled to locations across Europe and the United States to see different aspects of the mission, which will be showcased in a series of ESA blog posts leading up to the launch.
The Shaun model also performed a flight on the Airbus ‘Zero G’ A310 in 2019, on one of its parabolic flights which recreates ‘weightlessness’ conditions similar to those found in space.
He gave insight into the rigorous training that all astronauts undertake to prepare for spaceflight, which he will now experience for real.
The woolly character’s journey marks the 15th anniversary of Shaun’s first television series, produced by animation company Aardman.
Lucy Wendover, Marketing Director at Aardman, said: “Aardman is delighted to join ESA in making history by launching the first ‘sheep’ into space.
“As one of the first astronauts to fly an Artemis mission, Shaun is leading the way in lunar exploration, a great honor for our woolly adventurer!”
Artemis I, which has experienced several delays over the past two and a half years, will finally launch an uncrewed Orion capsule that will fly around the moon and return to Earth
NASA engineers use an adapted dummy – known as ‘Commander Moonikin Campos – to perform vibration tests at Kennedy Space Center. He will fly aboard the Orion spacecraft
Accompanying Shaun on the Orion spacecraft will be NASA’s “Moonikin” dummy.
Known as “Commander Moonikin Campos”, the test dummy was successfully installed in the commander’s chair at the head of the Orion capsule.
It is named after Arturo Campus, an electrical engineer who played a key role in the safe return of Apollo 13 to Earth in 1970.
Commander Campos will provide NASA experts with data on what human astronauts might experience during flight in the future.
Sensors in the headrest and behind the seat will measure vibration and acceleration, while radiation sensors will monitor exposure.
Two other mannequins – Helga and Zohar – will also be installed in the Orion over the next few weeks to record radiation levels.
Last month, NASA announced that it had selected three potential dates for its Artemis I mission – August 29, September 2 or September 5.
James Free, associate administrator at NASA headquarters in Washington DC, said the exact date will be determined about a week before launch.
The Artemis 1 mission will launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft. Pictured is a cutaway of Orion showing Helga and Zohar and above them another male mannequin called Campos
NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the moon in 2025 as part of the Artemis mission
Artemis was Apollo’s twin sister and moon goddess in Greek mythology.
NASA has chosen her to personify its journey back to the moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2025 – including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration of the Moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an uncrewed flight that will provide a foundation for human exploration of deep space and demonstrate our commitment and ability to extend human existence to the moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the Moon during a mission lasting approximately three weeks.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration of the Moon and Mars. This graphic explains the different stages of the mission
Orion will stay in space longer than any astronaut ship without docking with a space station and will return home faster and warmer than ever.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps in human deep space exploration where astronauts will build and begin testing near-moon systems needed for lunar surface missions and exploration. to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars.
They will take the crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans on board.
Together, Orion, SLS and Kennedy’s ground systems will be able to meet the most challenging requirements of deep space crew and cargo missions.
Eventually, NASA is looking to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes this colony will discover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advances, and lay the groundwork for private companies to build a lunar economy.