One Small Step For Man, One Giant Leap for Snoopy: Plush Version Scheduled for Rocket Ride

Next year, a plush version of the cartoon character Snoopy will be on board a new rocket designed to launch humans to the moon and beyond.

The stuffed toy is a five-ounce version of the beagle wearing a space suit that was designed according to NASA's strict requirements. Snoopy will have an important job on the Artemis I unmanned mission.

Stuffed animals are used on flights to indicate the spacecraft has entered space's zero gravity. They identify this when the toys start to float. The items won't break anything or accidentally push buttons since they are soft and light, The Associated Press reported.

In a test run without astronauts, the Artemis I mission is scheduled to circle the moon, then return to Earth in February. The flight will ensure all systems are working for future crewed missions. As part of an educational series, two Lego figurines will also be on board.

The announcement for the upcoming missions coincided with the release of the second season of "Snoopy in Space," the Emmy-nominated animated series on Apple TV+, on Friday. Snoopy became an astronaut in season one. Showrunner Mark Evestaff said season two will see him go on an "epic road trip."

"We have taken a bit of a step further so that Snoopy is able to go to some of these places we haven't been like Mars or the moons of Jupiter or visiting an exoplanet," Evestaff said.

"Snoopy became an astronaut and was able to go to space. Well, now what do you do with that? Well, let's go explore. Let's have that search for life," Stephanie Betts, chief content officer at media company WildBrain, said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Snoopy, Space, Rocket, Launch
This product image shows a stuffed toy version of Snoopy wearing a NASA space suit. Next February, the toy is scheduled to be on board the Artemis I unmanned mission. Peanuts Worldwide via AP

Back closer to home, the plush Snoopy's gravity-monitoring task — it's officially called the zero gravity indicator — will be far from the first stuffed toy used by astronauts. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, had a small doll when he launched on Vostok 1.

Since then, an owl doll and an Angry Birds toy have been on the International Space Station, a plush R2-D2 was used as the talisman on a Soyuz mission in 2015 and a stuffed snowman Olaf from the movie "Frozen" has gone up. A plush Snoopy has also been on the space station.

Snoopy has a long history with NASA, starting when the Apollo X astronauts Thomas Stafford, John Young and Gene Cernan chose "Peanuts" characters as nicknames — the command module was called Charlie Brown, and the lunar module was Snoopy.

"Someone had the idea of trying to bring more interest into the space program. By the time they got to Apollo 10, they felt that the program was going to become a little stale," said Craig Schulz, son of "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz. "For my dad, it was probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest honor, that could ever be bestowed upon his comic strip."

Charles Schulz, for his part, drew strips with Snoopy walking on the lunar surface. "I did it! I'm first beagle on the moon! I beat the Russians... I beat everybody... I even beat that stupid cat who lives next door!" says Snoopy in one.

NASA and "Peanuts" have frequently been interwoven. The space agency honors its best employees with the Silver Snoopy Award, and a Snoopy doll was aboard Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in 2019.

The plush 10-inch-by-7 inch Snoopy that is being readied for the Artemis I mission was not the kind you'd find on a Target shelf. It's a one-of-a-kind work and painstakingly designed using only NASA-approved materials. Stress-testing it is due in December.

"The spacesuit had to meet all the requirements and be of the same quality that the astronauts would be wearing, both in the materials and what got approved. So it was a months-long process of going back and forth and back and forth as they considered all the materials used on the spacesuit," said Craig Schulz.

In many ways, the reuniting of Snoopy and NASA in 2021 mirrors the way the two initially worked together to generate interest in space exploration.

"Space travel is almost become so normalized now," said Schulz. "People's attention span is a little weak, for the most part. So when you inject some of that entertaining Snoopy, you're going to capture the audience."

Launch, Snoopy, Stuffed toy, Space
This photo provided by Apple TV+ shows Snoopy with Woodstock in Apple TV+ series “Snoopy in Space.” A plush version of Snoopy will be launched into space on unmanned mission from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Apple TV+ via AP