As this is being written, hot on the heels of MSG Sphere’s immersive cameras’ trip to the ISS, a specially trained new astronaut, Aardman’s Shaun the Sheep, is also heading into space. Together with an ESA European Service Module, he is the only passenger onboard the first flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which is being controlled, as you might imagine, from the ground.
“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 for her second mission, and before we introduce our new astronauts from the 2021 call for selection later this year.
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.”Dr David Parker, Director for Human & Robotic Exploration, ESA, speaking in August 2022
Shaun will perform a flyby of the Moon, using lunar gravity to gain speed and his spacecraft will propel itself 70 000 km beyond the Moon, almost half a million km from Earth, “farther than any human, or sheep, has ever travelled“, the Aardman press release reminds us. Shaun’s training for this mission, which is documented on the ESA blog, began back in 2020. Amongst other adventures during this period he took a flight on the special Airbus ‘Zero G’ A310 aircraft on one of its parabolic flights that recreates the ‘weightless’ conditions similar to those experienced in space
“Aardman is excited to be joining 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 honour for our woolly adventurer! 2022 marks the 15th anniversary of Shaun’s first TV series, so what better way to celebrate than by travelling farther than any sheep has gone before.”Lucy Wendover, Marketing Director, Aardman, speaking in August 2022