You must have watched Shaun the Sheep, a popular animated character. During our childhood, the show had us completely enthralled. Now, a puppet form of Shaun has been given a seat as an “astronaut” on the Artemis I mission to the Moon. The European Space Agency (ESA) announced this on Tuesday.
Dr David Parker, the director of ESA’s Human and Robotic Exploration division, announced Shaun the Sheep’s assignment. According to space.com, the mission is scheduled to be launched later this month. Shaun the Sheep – in doll form – will travel far beyond the moon aboard NASA’s unmanned Orion spacecraft before coming back to Earth in a little over a month.
Shaun was included in the Artemis 1 official flight kit from the ESA, which also developed the mission’s power-supplying service module.
Artemis I will be a crewless mission that will fly by our natural satellite on the NASA Orion spacecraft with an attached ESA service module.
“Shaun’s mission assignment rounds off the first phase for the latest members of our astronaut corps, with Italian ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti currently on the International Space Station on her second spaceflight, Danish ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen named for his second flight and before we introduce our new astronauts from the 2021 call for selection later this year,” said Dr Parker.
“This is an exciting time for Shaun and for us at ESA. We’re woolly very happy that he’s been selected for the mission and we understand that, although it might be a small step for a human, it’s a giant leap for lambkind,” he added.
NASA announced that Artemis I might launch as early as August 23 after its next-generation SLS rocket had a successful fuelling test. The mission will take Shaun and Commander Moonikin Campos beyond the moon aboard the agency’s Orion spacecraft, a report in Engadget said.
The Space Launch System will take off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, USA, with Orion and its European Service Module. Prior to the rocket’s upper stage firing and launching the spacecraft into a translunar orbit, the spacecraft will enter a low-Earth orbit.
If all goes as planned, the capsule should land on Earth after 39 to 42 days in space. “The spacecraft will perform a flyby of the Moon, using lunar gravity to gain speed and propel itself 70 000 km beyond the Moon, almost half a million km from Earth – farther than any human, or sheep, has ever traveled,” ESA said in a statement.