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

The specially trained woolly astronaut, Shaun the Sheep, has been assigned a seat on the Artemis I mission to the Moon, it was announced today.

Shaun’s assignment was announced by ESA’s Director for Human and Robotic Exploration Dr David Parker.

David Parker said, "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 on her second spaceflight, Danish ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen named for his second flight 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," added David Parker.

Shaun will be flying on the Artemis I mission, which will be the first flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft with an ESA European Service Module, planned to go around the Moon and back. This mission is not carrying a human crew but will instead be controlled from the ground with its woolly 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 a low-Earth orbit before the rocket’s upper stage fires to take 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 any human, or sheep, has ever travelled.

In preparation for this flight, Shaun began a programme of astronaut training and familiarisation with the Orion spacecraft and its European Service Module in 2020, travelling to various locations across Europe and the USA to see different aspects of the mission. This training was documented and will be presented in a series of ESA blog posts leading up to launch.

With a keen passion for exploring, Shaun took flight on the special Airbus ’Zero G’ A310 aircraft during one of its parabolic flights that recreates the ’weightless’ conditions similar to those experienced in space.

Under the supervision of an ESA team, this flight prepared Shaun for his role as a space traveller in his film ’A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon’, released in 2019. It offered insight into the rigorous training that all astronauts undertake to prepare for spaceflight, which he will now experience for real.

Lucy Wendover, Marketing Director at Aardman says, "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."

About Shaun the Sheep

Shaun the Sheep, Aardman’s family favourite TV series, is recognised the world over for its slapstick humour, distinctive look and strong, quirky characters and enjoyed across multiple media platforms. First appearing in Nick Park’s 1995 Academy Award winning Wallace & Gromit ’A Close Shave’, Shaun then went on to star in his own series, created by Richard Starzak which launched on BBC One in 2007. Shaun the Sheep is currently broadcast in 170 territories around the world and is an internationally celebrated icon with over 5.6 million fans on Facebook. In 2015 the first Shaun the Sheep Movie with feature film partner Studiocanal was released around the world to critical acclaim and the first half hour TV special aired as part of many broadcaster’s festive season., The feature film sequel Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon was released in October 2019 and nominated for an Academy Award and was closely followed by a sixth season of the series in 2020. A new festive special Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas was released in December 2021.


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