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

Published 2nd August 2022

Aardman and the European Space Agency (ESA) have today announced that the specially trained astronaut, Shaun the Sheep, has been assigned a seat on the Artemis I mission to the Moon.

Shaun will be taking the first flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft with an ESA European Service Module, which is 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.

Shaun’s assignment was announced by ESA’s Director for Human and Robotic Exploration Dr David Parker, who commented: “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.”

Lucy Wendover, Marketing Director at Aardman added:  “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.”