Snoopy Is NASA’s Low Tech Zero Gravity Indicator for Artemis I

Half a century ago, give or take, spaceflight was more about national pride than scientific curiosity. Engaged in a race for world domination with Soviet Russia, the U.S. saw space and anything floating in it as the new PR battlefield.
Snoopy doll to fly on Artemis I as zero gravity indicator 7 photos
Photo: Peanuts Worldwide
Silver Snoopy AwardNASA astronaut Eugene A. Cernan and SnoopyAstronaut Tom Stafford and SnoopyAstronaut Tom Stafford and SnoopySilver Snoopy awardSnoopy doll to fly on Artemis I as zero gravity indicator
Telling people in a complicated manner what space exploration in general and the Apollo program in particular are was of course not enough, and NASA had to devise means to make these efforts appealing for the wider public, from the youngest of ages.

Those efforts included an unlikely partnership with Charles Schulz, the cartoonist who gave birth to some of the most recognizable characters ever created, Peanuts’ Charlie Brown and his anthropomorphic beagle named Snoopy.

The first time these characters were unofficially included in the space program was during the Apollo 10 mission. In May of 1969, the lunar module that reached the satellite was nicknamed by the crew Snoopy, while the command module got the moniker Charlie Brown.

Also back in the Apollo era, NASA created the Silver Snoopy Award, a very coveted recognition of merits for NASA employees and contractors, with about 1 percent of the aerospace program workforce getting it each year. Each of these awards, which come in the form of a silver pin, had been flown in space by NASA astronauts before being handed to the recipients.

NASA astronaut Eugene A\. Cernan and Snoopy
Photo: NASA
For the general public, NASA’s Snoopy is presently contributing to a STEM-based curriculum for students in kindergarten through 5th grade, meant to educate children about American space endeavors, it was featured in a McDonald’s Happy Meal, and even on a Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon.

And now, it will be going into space on the first, uncrewed mission of the Artemis program.

At the moment, NASA is getting ready to kickstart its second lunar program. Artemis I is scheduled to take off in a few months’ time, in a run meant to validate both the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion capsule.

Orion, which is actually the spaceship that will eventually take humans to the Moon, will not house people this time, but it will be “crewed” by a dummy named Arturo Campos, after the man who helped stop the Apollo 13 mission from turning into a disaster, and a toy Snoopy doll.

While Campos will be strapped in a seat, Snoopy will float around freely, and on purpose. NASA is using it as a zero-gravity indicator, which simply put is a free object that starts to float once the spaceship reaches zero-G, providing a visual cue of the achievement.

Astronaut Tom Stafford and Snoopy
Photo: NASA
For Artemis I, Snoppy will be wearing a full orange astronaut suit, comprising gloves, boots, and a NASA patch. It has no sensors, no cameras, no fancy gear, as it needs none for the simple job it has to perform.

The Snoopy doll will be accompanied in space by Sliver Snoopy pins, but also a pen nib from Schulz’s Peanuts studio, wrapped in a space-themed comic strip.

That’s on the actual mission. Back on Earth, Artemis will be advertised by Peanuts Worldwide with “a new suite of curriculum and short videos with its partner, GoNoodle, to encourage kids to learn about gravity, teamwork, and space exploration.” Additionally, Apple TV+ will run a new season of Snoopy in Space.

At the time of writing, there is no set date and time for the launch of Artemis I. The official NASA countdown timer has just been updated to show 26 days left, putting the event at the end of this month.

That will have to be reset as well, as the space agency recently said it would only roll out the SLS onto the launchpad in mid-March.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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