Shaun the Sheep Returns from the Moon6th Apr 2023
One special sheep has just returned from his mission to the Moon.
(Yes, you did read that right!)
Shaun the Sheep went on a very historic journey. Now he’s safely back on British Soil, we thought it would be the perfect time to explore the British cartoon character’s connection with the space industry.
So, who is Shaun the Sheep?
Shaun the Sheep is a popular animated character from the British stop-motion animated television series created by Aardman Animations. The character made its first appearance in the 1995 Oscar-winning short film “A Close Shave” and later starred in its own television series, which first aired in 2007.
Shaun is a clever and mischievous sheep who lives on a farm with his flock and the farmer. The show follows Shaun and his friends as they embark on various adventures and get into all sorts of trouble, often while trying to avoid the watchful eye of the farmer’s sheepdog, Bitzer.
The show’s popularity led to several spin-off series and feature films, including “Shaun the Sheep Movie” (2015) and “Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” (2019).
Shaun the Sheep has become a beloved character in popular culture, particularly among children, and has been used in various educational materials and outreach programs to engage younger audiences in science and technology.
Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon has a space theme
Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon is the second movie featuring Shaun the Sheep as the main character.
In this film, Shaun and his friends encounter a cute and mischievous alien named Lu-La who has crash-landed on Earth. They soon discover that Lu-La has amazing powers and that an evil organization is trying to capture her for their own purposes.
As Shaun and his friends help Lu-La evade capture, they embark on a wild adventure that takes them from Mossy Bottom Farm to the depths of outer space.
Along the way, they face numerous challenges and obstacles, but they always manage to come up with clever solutions to save the day.
Why did the ESA choose Shaun?
The European Space Agency (ESA) chose Shaun the Sheep as a way to engage younger audiences in space science and promote interest in space exploration.
As a popular character from the animated television series, Shaun the Sheep has a wide appeal among children and families, and using him as a mascot can make space science more accessible and relatable to a wider audience.
In addition, ESA has a history of using popular culture to promote its activities and inspire the public’s interest in space exploration.
The agency has collaborated with various cultural icons, including the Star Wars franchise, to engage with audiences and promote its scientific mission.
By incorporating popular characters like Shaun the Sheep, ESA is able to promote its work to a broader audience, including those who may not have previously been interested in space exploration.
It’s not the first collaboration between Shaun and the ESA
The European Space Agency (ESA) first used Shaun the Sheep in a marketing campaign in 2019. As part of the campaign, Shaun underwent “astronaut training” with ESA to promote the upcoming film “Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” and engage younger audiences in space science.
Shaun participated in a number of space training activities
During the ESA and Shaun the Sheep 2019 campaign, ESA released a series of videos featuring Shaun participating in various training activities, such as experiencing weightlessness in parabolic flights and conducting experiments in a laboratory setting.
The campaign received a lot of attention on social media and was praised for its ability to connect science and entertainment in a fun and engaging way.
Since then, the collaboration between the ESA and Shaun the Sheep has thrived.
Shaun’s trip to the Moon
In November 2022, a new milestone was achieved, as Shaun the Sheep (or rather, a model of it, but shh… let’s not spoil the fun) took the first flight of NASA’s Orion space capsule with the ESA European Service Module. The spacecraft journeyed around the Moon and back, carrying Shaun as a woolly specialist passenger while being controlled from the ground, as the mission did not have a human crew.
The launch of Orion and its European Service Module took place from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, onboard the Space Launch System. After entering a low-Earth orbit, the spacecraft’s upper stage fired to propel it into a translunar orbit.
Using lunar gravity to gain speed and navigate, the spacecraft performed a flyby of the Moon and propelled itself over 70,000 km beyond the Moon, marking the farthest distance travelled by a human being (or sheep!), almost half a million kilometres away from Earth. This mission marks an important achievement in space exploration and inspires new opportunities for future space missions.
It’s not the first time a popular fictional character has collaborated with a space organisation
In the 1960s, NASA began using Snoopy as a safety mascot for its Apollo missions, and he became a popular symbol of the agency’s space program.
NASA and the Peanuts creator Charles Schulz also collaborated on several educational materials and outreach programs aimed at engaging young people in science and technology.
Shaun the Sheep returns to the UK
Just last week, a model of Shaun the Sheep returned to the UK after taking a NASA space trip to the Moon. The model travelled for approximately 1.5 million miles in an empty craft. While there were no humans, Shaun wasn’t alone, as another animated character joined him; Snoopy!
The European Space Agency’s Dr David Parker had the following to say about Shaun’s return:
“I’m delighted to welcome Shaun the Sheep, alive and wool after a well-deserved rest on the farm.”
Dr Parker was speaking in Bristol at Aardman Studios, where Shaun the Sheep’s films and TV programmes are produced. He presented the Aardman team with a Nasa certificate and revealed Shaun’s official ESA astronaut program.
Peter Lord, the co-founder of Aardman, said:
“It’s every child’s dream, isn’t it, to be an astronaut? And so the fact that he was doing it for us seemed very, very important. Extraordinary. Our baby, our creation.”
Will Shaun be going on any more space missions in the future?
As of now, there are no official plans for Shaun the Sheep to be involved in any upcoming space missions. However, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he’ll join four human astronauts at the end of next year when they fly around the Moon.
As a popular character that has been used to engage young audiences in space science, it is possible that Shaun the Sheep could be featured in future space-themed promotions or educational initiatives.
Additionally, the success of the Artemis I mission and the ongoing developments in space exploration could lead to opportunities for other fictional characters or mascots to inspire young people and promote interest in space science.