ESA names first 'astronaut' to fly on Artemis I lunar mission

ESA names first ‘astronaut’ to fly on Artemis I lunar mission

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Specially trained woolly astronaut Shaun the Sheep has been assigned a seat on the Artemis I mission to the Moon. Shaun’s mission was announced by ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, Dr. David Parker.

David Parker said: “Shaun’s mission completes the first phase for the final members of our astronaut corps, with Italian ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti currently on the International Space Station for her second spaceflight, the Danish ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen nominated for his second flight and ahead of presenting our new 2021 call for astronauts later this year.

“This is an exciting time for Shaun and for us at ESA. We are very pleased that he has been selected for the mission and we understand that although this is a small step for a human, it is a leaps and bounds for lamb,” added David Parker.

Shaun will participate in the Artemis I mission, which will be the first flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft with an ESA European service module, scheduled to circle the moon and return. This mission does not carry a human crew but will instead be controlled from the ground with its woolly specialist as a passenger.

Shaun with a model of the Orion spacecraft from the Artemis I mission and its European service module

Orion and its European Service Module will be launched by the Space Launch System from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. The spacecraft will enter low Earth orbit before the rocket’s upper stage fires to take it to translunar orbit.

The spacecraft will perform a flyby of the Moon, using lunar gravity to gain speed and propel itself 70,000 km beyond the Moon, nearly half a million km from Earth – further than ‘no human or sheep has ever travelled.

In preparation for this flight, Shaun began an astronaut training and familiarization program with the Orion spacecraft and its European Service Module in 2020, traveling to various locations across Europe and the United States to see different aspects of the mission. This training has been documented and will be featured in a series of ESA blog posts leading up to the launch.

Passionate about exploration, Shaun took to the skies aboard the special Airbus “Zero G” A310 aircraft during one of its parabolic flights which recreates the “weightlessness” conditions similar to those encountered in space.

Supervised by an ESA team, this flight prepared Shaun for his role as a space traveler in his 2019 film “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon”. rigorous training that all astronauts undertake to prepare for spaceflight, which he will now experience for real.

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! 2022 marks the 15th anniversary of Shaun’s first TV series, so what better way to celebrate than by traveling further than any sheep has gone before.

Follow Shaun’s training for Artemis I and preparations for the European Service Module’s first flight to the Moon here.

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