Going into space is an honour few people get to experience, but even fewer toy sheep get to make the journey. However, that is all about to change as one woolly astronaut prepares to step inside a spacecraft.
Shaun the Sheep (or at least a space-ready version of him) is set to be sent into space as part of the upcoming Artemis 1 launch. The first of a number of planned flights, Artemis 1 will have no human pilots on board, but Shaun will be joined by an Amazon Alexa, a Snoopy doll and even some plants.
But how did Shaun achieve his seat as the first sheep in space, has he been trained and is he safe to be inside a spacecraft? We spoke to Emily Jones, brand director at Aardman, to find out more.
The first sheep in space
Shaun managed to sneak a seat on this coveted flight thanks to his career as a movie star. “Back in 2019, Aardman and the European Space Agency had a partnership to celebrate the release of the film Shaun The Sheep: Farmageddon,” says Jones.
“During this time, we had a Shaun puppet experience a zero-gravity flight. Aardman have been in touch with the European Space Agency ever since and it has been in the planning for many years to have Shaun be part of the Artemis 1 mission!”
Unlike most flights into space, there will be no humans taking part. Instead, Shaun is one of a few toys and other gadgets to make it onboard. So why is he on the flight?
“Shaun is going to be the first European – and sheep! – to fly to and around the Moon. It’s a fantastic opportunity for a much-loved character to be part of this first mission which will eventually lead to getting people back to the Moon,” says Jones.
If, like us, you’re wondering why Shaun got the seat and not Aardman’s loveable duo of Wallace and Gromit, Jones had the answer to this too: “Wallace and Gromit have been to the Moon already in their adventure, A Grand Day Out, in which they went to see if the Moon was really made of cheese. Hopefully Shaun can learn more on his trip.”
Preparing for the mission
Going into space is not an easy trip. In fact, it requires a lot of training and preparation. Luckily, Shaun had already been through a zero-gravity flight so it wasn’t all too new to him.
Like any astronaut, he went through further training around various European Space Agencies (ESA) sites including ESTEC in the Netherlands. The ESA made sure to document his training, just to prove he wasn’t one of those celebrities who uses a stunt double.
The one other key factor to consider is whether it was safe to have Shaun in space. “To ensure he was suitable for flight, ESA also had to ensure the materials the puppet is made from were suitable. Luckily, they were – so the Shaun on board is a genuine, unmodified Aardman puppet,” says Jones.
As the Artemis launch will be using a reusable rocket, and will be planning a return trip to space, this Shaun the Sheep will be reunited with Aardman once it lands.