Ewe-ston we have a problem? The European Space Agency (ESA) has named its first astronaut to fly on its NASA’s Artemis I lunar mission: Shaun the Sheep.
No stranger to outer space following his exploits aboard a UFO in his big screen caper Farmageddon, the space-sheep will be going further than any farmyard friend (or human) has gone before.
Shaun, who hails from Mossy Bottom Farm near London, has been assigned a seat aboard Artemis I, and scientists are woolly happy about it.
The mission will see the maiden flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which will go around the Moon and back with an ESA European Service Module.
This mission is not carrying a human crew but will instead be controlled from the ground with its cloven-hoofed specialist as a passenger.
The aim is for the Artemis mission to eventually put the first woman and next man on the moon.
The ESA’s director for human and robotic exploration Dr David Parker said: “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.”
Orion and its European Service Module will be launched by the Space Launch System from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The spacecraft will enter a low-Earth orbit before the rocket’s upper stage fires to take it into a translunar orbit.
Read more: NASA’s ‘megarocket’ roars into life – but only briefly, putting launch in jeopardy
Shaun will perform a flyby of the Moon, with his vessel using lunar gravity to gain speed and propel itself 70,000km (43,496 miles) beyond the Moon, almost half a million kilometres from Earth – farther than any human, or sheep, has ever travelled.
Not to be found unprepared, 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.
He even experienced weightlessness aboard a special Airbus ‘Zero G’ A310 aircraft during one of its parabolic flights.
Lucy Wendover, marketing director at Aardman, said: “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.”