When the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, scheduled to launch on August 29, travel beyond the moon, the spacecraft will carry some special items.
Inside Orion will be three mannequins, toys and even an Amazon Alexa, along with historical and educational items.
The mission — which will launch the Artemis program, with the goal of eventually returning humans to the moon — continues a tradition started in the 1960s of NASA memento spacecraft. The tradition includes the Voyager probe’s gold record and the Perseverance rover microchip with 10.9 million names. Artemis I will carry 120 pounds worth of mementos and other items in his official flying kit.
Commander Moonikin Campos sits in the commander’s seat of Orion, a suitable mannequin capable of collecting data on what future human crews may experience during a lunar voyage. The name, chosen through a public competition, is a nod to Arturo Campos, a NASA electrical power subsystem manager who helped ensure the safe return of Apollo 13 to Earth.
The commander’s post has sensors behind the seat and headrest to track acceleration and vibration throughout the mission, which is expected to last approximately 42 days. The mannequin will also wear the new Orion Crew Survival System suit designed for astronauts to wear during launch and reentry. The suit has two radiation sensors.
Two “phantoms” named Helga and Zohar will ride in other Orion seats. These mannequin torsos are made of materials that mimic a woman’s soft tissue, organs, and bones. The two torsos have more than 5,600 sensors and 34 radiation detectors to measure how much radiation exposure occurs during the mission.
The mannequins are part of the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment, a collaboration between the German Aerospace Center, the Israel Space Agency, NASA and institutions in multiple countries. Zohar will wear AstroRad, a radiation protection vest, to test how effective it can be if future crews encounter a solar storm.
Amazon’s Alexa will ride along as a technology demonstration developed between Lockheed Martin, Amazon and Cisco. The tech demo, called Callisto, includes reconfigured versions of Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, and Cisco’s teleconferencing platform WebEx to test how these applications perform in space.
Named after one of Artemis’s hunting companions from Greek mythology, Callisto’s goal is to demonstrate how astronauts and flight controllers can use technology to make their jobs safer and more efficient as humans explore deep space.
Callisto rides on Orion’s center console. The touchscreen tablet will share video and audio live between the spacecraft and the Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Toys in space
Snoopy and space just go together. The beloved character created by Charles M. Schulz has been associated with NASA missions since the Apollo program, when Schulz drew comics featuring Snoopy on the moon. The Apollo 10 lunar module was nicknamed “Snoopy” because its job, according to NASA, was to poke around and explore the Apollo 11 landing site on the moon.
A Snoopy plush first flew to space in 1990 aboard the Columbia shuttle.
A nib used by Schulz of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, California, will participate in the Artemis I mission, wrapped in a space-themed comic. And a plush Snoopy toy flies into the capsule like a gravity indicator.
The agency has a long history of using toys in space as weightless indicators — so called because they begin to float once the spacecraft has entered gravity.
As part of NASA’s partnership with the European Space Agency, which provided the service module for Orion, a small Shaun the Sheep toy will also be an Artemis passenger. The character is part of a spin-off of a children’s program from the series “Wallace and Gromit”.
Four Lego minifigures will also ride in Orion as part of an ongoing collaboration between NASA and the Lego Group, hoping to engage children and adults in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.
A space-time capsule
The Artemis I Official Flight Kit, which contains thousands of items, includes a variety of patches, pins and flags to share with those who contributed to the inaugural flight once the capsule crashes into the Pacific Ocean in October.
Several of the items — such as space science badges from the Girl Scouts of America, digitized student visions of moon exploration from the German Space Agency, and digital entries from the Artemis Moon Pod essay competition — honor the contributions of students and educators with an interest in STEM.
A variety of tree and plant seeds will be on board in a nod to a similar tradition that began during the Apollo 14 mission. The seeds were later planted and became “Moon Trees” as part of an experiment to understand the effects of the space environment on seeds. NASA will share the Artemis seeds with teachers and educational organizations once the capsule returns.
Several Apollo items have been brought along for the ride, including an Apollo 8 commemorative medallion, an Apollo 11 mission patch, a bolt from one of Apollo 11’s F-1 engines, and a small moon rock collected during Apollo 11 that was also aboard the latter. space shuttle flew flight. The items were shared by the National Air and Space Museum, which will display them in an exhibit when they return.
Cultural pieces will also be on the run. A 3D-printed replica of the Greek goddess Artemis will participate in the space journey and will later be exhibited at the Greek Acropolis Museum. The European Space Agency shared a postcard of Georges Méliès’ famous “A Trip to the Moon” artwork for the flight kit.
And the Israel Space Agency donated a pebble from the lowest dry land surface on Earth, the coast of the Dead Sea, to travel on Artemis 1, a flight that will go further than any human has ever gone.