CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — Snoopy is going to the Moon, sort of. He will be serving a small but important role during Artemis I's test flight as a zero gravity indicator. He'll be wearing a custom orange flight suit outfitted with gloves, boots and a NASA patch.
What exactly is a zero gravity indicator? It's a small item carried aboard spacecraft to give a visual indicator of when the capsule reaches the weightlessness of microgravity, NASA explains.
Zero gravity indicators can travel with astronauts during their missions, but this test flight will be unmanned. However, NASA says Snoopy won't exactly be alone during his ride into space. He'll be in the Orion capsule cabin along with a manikin and two other "passengers."
NASA said the manikin will have sensors on it to give the space agency data on what future astronauts may experience in flight aboard the Orion capsule.
As for these other passengers, they will also serve a meaningful purpose. The Artemis I test flight will be the first time the AstroRad radiation protection vest is launched into space. The vest was developed as part of an agreement between NASA and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The purpose of this experiment is to gather data on radiation levels during missions to the Moon and test the effectiveness of the vest.
The vest will be strapped on one of two manikins, named Zohar. The other manikin, named Helga, will not be wearing a vest. The manikins are known as phantoms and are made of materials that mimic "human bones, soft tissues, and organs" of an adult woman, NASA said.
Monday's scheduled launch is not Snoopy's first time in space. He got to catch a ride on the Space shuttle Columbia in 1990 during the STS-32 mission.
And, the classic Peanuts character has had a long history with NASA's space program. During the Apollo era in the 1960s, Snoopy creator Charles Schulz used the cartoon beagle's fame to help garner excitement for America's achievements in space by showing Snoopy on the Moon.
During the Apollo 10 mission in May 1969, the lunar module skimmed the Moon's surface and "snooped around" the lunar surface, leading to the module being dubbed "Snoopy."