NASA’s Artemis I moon rocket flies through space for the first time. Meet the mannequins, Snoopy and ‘Shaun the Sheep’ dolls for the ride.

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

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

  • The Artemis I mission launched in the early hours of Wednesday, November 16, for its maiden voyage to the moon.

  • Mannequins and memorabilia hitchhike aboard NASA’s Orion capsule — sans humans.

  • Artemis I is the first mission in the NASA program to land astronauts on the moon and eventually Mars.

NASA’s powerful Space Launch System, with the Orion capsule designed to house astronauts atop the rocket, is finally on its way to the moon.

While no human travels aboard the Artemis I mission, it doesn’t go empty. Mannequins, gravity indicators, artifacts, mementos and more are now embarking on a 25-day journey around the moon and back – further than any spacecraft built for humans has ever gone.

It’s a long-overdue first step in the space agency’s effort to get humans back to the moon’s surface for the first time since 1972. If all goes according to plan, the Space Launch System’s mega rocket plans to take the crew capsule the entire way around the moon before returning for a splash in the Pacific Ocean. That landing is scheduled for December 11, according to NASA.

Here are some of the cool and colorful payloads making the historic return flight to our nearest cosmic neighbor: the moon.

Commander Moonikin Campos will measure the deep space environment around the moon during Artemis 1.

Commander Moonikin Campos will measure the deep space environment around the moon during Artemis I.NASA

Strapped to the commander’s seat at the head of the Orion capsule is a human-sized test dummy named Commander Moonikin Campos. The name is a nod to Arturo Campos, an electrical engineer who played a key role in Apollo 13’s safe return to Earth.

Clad in the new Orion Crew Survival System spacesuit, Commander Moonikin will provide NASA scientists with vital data on what humans experience during a trip to the moon. Two sensors placed behind the commander’s seat and under the headrest record acceleration and vibration generated during the mission, and the mannequin itself is equipped with two sensors to measure radiation exposure.

“It is critical for us to get data from the Artemis I-pop to ensure that all newly designed systems, coupled with an energy damping system on which the seats are mounted, integrate with each other and provide the protection crew members need in preparation for our first crewed mission on Artemis II,” Jason Hutt, NASA lead for Orion Crew Systems Integration, said in a statement last year.

Equipped with more than 5,600 sensors, Zohar and Helga will measure the amount of radiation astronauts could be exposed to in future missions with unprecedented precision.

Equipped with more than 5,600 sensors, Zohar and Helga will measure the amount of radiation astronauts could be exposed to in future missions.Lockheed Martin

Two other mannequins named Helga and Zohar ride in Orion’s passenger seats.

They have torsos made of materials that mimic a woman’s soft tissue, organs and bones, along with 5,600 sensors and 34 radiation detectors to measure how much radiation is exposed during the mission. The only difference between the two mannequins is that Zohar is wearing a radiation protection vest and Helga is not.

“When it comes to biological effects, different organs have different sensitivity to space radiation. Understanding the impact is very important for successful and sustainable human space exploration,” said Ramona Gaza, science team leader at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, in a Newsletter on August 17.

She added that the team is studying how women experience the space environment “as women generally have a higher risk of developing cancer because they have more radiation-sensitive organs, such as breast tissue and ovaries.”

The space agencies hope that studying what these mannequins will prepare experienced astronauts who plan to fly around the moon on the Artemis II mission in 2024, and the Artemis III astronauts who will eventually land on the moon. Insights from Zohar and Helga will be particularly helpful as the Artemis program aims to send the first woman to the moon.

Shaun the sheep experiences microgravity on a parabolic flight from ESA.

Shaun the sheep experiences microgravity during parabolic flight.ESA/Aardman

Zero-gravity indicators are small items aboard a spacecraft that serve as a visual indicator that it has entered weightlessness. Artemis I has some cute indicators.

Shaun, known from the British TV show “Shaun the Sheep”, flies aboard the Artemis I mission in the form of a plush doll.

“This is an exciting time for Shaun and for us at ESA,” David Parker, the European Space Agency’s director of human and robotic exploration, said in a statement. “We are very happy that he has been selected for the mission and we understand that while it is a small step for a human being, it is a giant step for a lamb kid.”

To “train” for the trip, Shaun went on a parabolic flight aboard a special Airbus “Zero G” A310 that creates the weightless state similar to microgravity.

A familiar fuzzy figure also flies into the capsule as a weightless indicator.

Snoopy will ride in the Orion pod and serve as a weight-free indicator.

Snoopy will ride in the Orion pod and serve as a weight-free indicator.2021 Peanuts Worldwide LLC

Snoopy, the beloved Peanuts character, has long been associated with NASA missions since the Apollo program. In fact, the Apollo 10 lunar module was nicknamed “Snoopy” because its job was to snoop around and explore the Apollo 11 landing site on the moon, according to NASA.

A plush version of the beagle — in a spacesuit designed to NASA’s strict specifications — alerted the team as soon as the capsule reached a microgravity environment.

Four Lego minifigures take a ride around the moon on the Artemis I mission.

The figurines also star in Lego’s “Build to Launch” series, which was designed in collaboration with NASA to teach students about different concepts and careers inspired by the Artemis missions.

“Each minifigure represents a real-life counterpart, such as Commando Pilot Kate and Mission Specialist Kyle, to help students better understand the different roles, backgrounds and skills within the Artemis I team,” Lego Education said in a November 2021 statement..

A set of Lego minifigures pose with the European service module that will power the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis II mission.  Four minifigures ride on the Artemis I mission.

Four LEGO minifigures ride along on the Artemis I mission.Radislav Sinyak/NASA

NASA is aiming to establish permanent bases in lunar orbit and on its surface, paving the way for eventually sending astronauts to Mars.

Growing crops reliably in space will be necessary for future space travelers to survive longer missions. To this end, the space agency wants to understand how to grow plants in space for food and oxygen on the moon or during space missions.

A variety of tree and plant seeds are on board Artemis I as part of experiments to study the effects of space radiation on them. According to a statement from NASA space biology program scientist Sharmila Bhattacharya, they “will help us understand a unique aspect of how biological systems can adapt and thrive in deep space.”

“Collecting such information and analyzing it post-flight will ultimately allow us to paint a complete picture of how to help humans thrive in deep space,” Bhattacharya added.

The bolt from one of Apollo 11's F-1 engines included in the Artemis I Official Flight Kit.

The bolt from one of Apollo 11’s F-1 engines included in the Artemis I Official Flight Kit.Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

As part of Artemis I’s Official Flight Kit, which contains approximately 120 pounds of memorabilia, several artifacts from previous space missions are contained within the Orion spacecraft.

A small piece of moon rock from the Apollo 11 mission, an Apollo 11 mission patch, and a bolt from one of Apollo 11’s F-1 engines are provided for the ride.

Objects of cultural significance are also featured on the tour, including a 3D-printed replica of the Greek goddess Artemis and a pebble from the lowest dry land surface on earth, the shore of the Dead Sea – farther than any human has ever gone.

This story has been updated with new information. It was originally published on August 18, 2022.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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