Specially trained woolly astronaut Shaun the Sheep has been assigned a seat on the Artemis I mission to the Moon. Shaun’s assignment was announced by ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, Dr David Parker.
David Parker said: “Shaun’s mission assignment completes the first phase for the newest members of our astronaut corps, with Italian ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti currently on the International Space Station on her second spaceflight, astronaut ESA’s Dane Andreas Mogensen appointed for his second flight and ahead of presenting our new astronauts from the 2021 selection call 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 understand that while it may be a small step for a human, it is a giant leap for the lambs,” added David Parker.
Shaun will fly on the Artemis I mission, which will be the first flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft with an ESA European Service Module planned to circle the Moon and back. This mission does not carry a human crew, but will be controlled from the ground with your wooly specialist as a passenger.
Orion and its European Service Module will be launched by the Space Launch System from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. The spacecraft will enter low Earth orbit before the rocket’s upper stage fires to carry it into a 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, almost half a million km from Earth, farther than a human or sheep have ever traveled. .
In preparation for this flight, Shaun began an astronaut familiarization and training program with the Orion spacecraft and its European Service Module in 2020, traveling to various locations in Europe and the US to see different aspects of the mission. This training was documented and will be featured in a series of ESA blog posts prior to launch.
With a passion for exploration, Shaun flew the Airbus ‘Zero G’ A310 spacecraft during one of its parabolic flights that recreate ‘weightlessness’ conditions similar to those experienced in space.
Supervised by an ESA team, this flight prepared Shaun for his role as a space traveler in his film ‘A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon’, released in 2019. It provided insight into the rigorous training all astronauts go through to prepare for space flight, which you will now experience for real.
Lucy Wendover, Aardman Marketing Director, says: “Aardman is excited 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 leads the way in lunar exploration – a great honor for our woolly adventurer! 2022 marks the 15th anniversary of Shaun’s first television 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.