The identity of the first astronaut to set off on the Artemis I mission to the moon has been revealed – and it’s none other than Shaun the Sheep.
A statue 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 involve the European Space Agency’s (ESA) European Service Module for the first time, is scheduled to orbit the moon before returning to Earth.
The spacecraft will be controlled by agents on Earth, while Shaun keeps everything “sheep-shaped” inside the Orion capsule.
“This is an exciting time for Shawn and us at ESA,” said Dr David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA.
“We are very pleased that he was chosen for the task and we understand that while it may be a small step for a human being, it is a giant leap for the sexes.”
The Shun spacecraft will enter low Earth orbit before its upper stage lifts off, bringing it into orbit around the Moon. The Orion capsule will then fly over the moon, using gravity to gain speed and propel itself 43,500 miles (70,000 km) behind the lunar satellite, before landing again in the Atlantic Ocean 42 days later.
Shaun the Sheep has also taken a flight aboard an Airbus Zero G ‘A310, during one of its equivalent flights that recreates ‘weightlessness’ conditions for those with experience in space.
Shaun and Orion will be launched by NASA’s Space Launch System – 322 feet (98 m) tall, US$23 billion – later this summer.
NASA’s Space Launch System: The Largest Rocket Ever Made
The Space Launch System, or SLS, is a launch vehicle that NASA hopes will return its astronauts to the moon and beyond.
The missile will have an initial lift configuration, scheduled for launch in early 2020, followed by an ‘Advance Lifting Capacity’ that can carry heavier payloads.
Space Launch System Initial Lifting Capacity
First flight: mid 2020
Height: 322 feet (98 meters)
Lifting: 70 metric tons
Weight: 2.5 million kilograms (5.5 million pounds)
The development of the space launch system, the lifting capacity
First flight: unknown
– Height: 384 feet (117 meters)
Lifting: 130 metric tons
Weight: 2.9 million kilograms (6.5 million pounds)
Shaun and Orion will be launched by NASA’s Space Launch System – 322 ft (98 m) tall, US$23 billion.
The spacecraft will enter low Earth orbit before taking off its upper stage, taking it into lunar orbit.
The Orion capsule will then fly over the moon, using its gravity to gain speed and propel itself 43,500 miles (70,000 km) behind and around the satellite, before landing again in the Atlantic Ocean 42 days later.
In preparation for this flight, Shaun has started an astronaut training and familiarization program for the Orion spacecraft in 2020.
Travel to locations across Europe and the USA to see different aspects of the mission to be presented In a series of ESA blog posts leading up to the launch.
Shaun also flew aboard an Airbus Zero G ‘A310’ in 2019, during one of his parabolic flights that recreate ‘weightlessness’ conditions similar to those that occurred in space.
It offered insight into the rigorous training that all astronauts go through to prepare for spaceflight, which he will now experience on the ground.
The Mystical Journey marks the 15th anniversary of Shawn’s first television series, produced by Aardman Animation.
“Aardman is excited to join ESA in making history by launching the first ‘lamb’ into space,” says Lucy Wendover, Marketing Director of Aardman.
“As one of the first astronauts to lead the Artemis mission, Shaun leads the way in lunar exploration, and it is a great honor for our mystical adventurer!”
Artemis I, which has experienced several delays over the past two and a half years, will finally launch an unmanned Orion capsule that will fly around the moon and return to Earth
NASA engineers use a suitable model – known as the ‘Commander Monekin Campus’ – to perform the vibration test at the Kennedy Space Center. It will fly aboard the Orion spacecraft
Aboard the Orion spacecraft, Sean will be accompanied by a NASA ‘Moonikin’ model.
The test dummy known as “Commander Monnequin Campus” was successfully installed in the Commander’s chair on top of the mighty capsule.
It is named after Arturo Campus, an electrical engineer who was a key player in bringing Apollo 13 safely back to Earth in 1970.
Commander Campos will provide NASA experts with data on what human astronauts may encounter while flying in the future.
Sensors in the headrest and behind the seat will measure vibrations and acceleration, while radiation sensors will monitor exposure.
Two more models – Helga and Zohar – will also be installed at Orion over the coming weeks to record radiation levels.
Last month, NASA announced that it had chosen three possible dates for the Artemis I mission – August 29, September 2, or September 5.
The exact date will be determined about a week before launch, James Free, associate administrator at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., said.
The Artemis 1 mission will launch an unmanned Orion spacecraft. In the picture, a clip of Orion shows Helga and Zohar, and above them another male statue called Campus
NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the moon in 2025 as part of the Artemis mission
Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and the goddess of the moon in Greek mythology.
She was chosen by NASA to embody its path 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 known as Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable humans to explore 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) and ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an unmanned flight that will provide a foundation for human exploration of deep space, and demonstrate our commitment and ability to extend human presence to the moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will blast off on the world’s most powerful rocket and fly farther than any spacecraft ever designed for humans.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, and thousands of miles beyond the Moon, over the course of a three-week mission.
Artemis 1, formerly known as Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable humans to explore the Moon and Mars. This graph shows the different stages of the task
Orion will stay in space longer than any astronaut ship has done without docking to a space station and returning home faster and hotter than ever before.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps of human exploration in deep space as astronauts will build and begin testing systems near the Moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations far from Earth, including Mars.
The crew will take a different path 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 crew and cargo needs in deep space.
Ultimately, NASA seeks to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes that this colony will reveal new scientific discoveries, showcase new technological developments and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.