NASA’s Artemis 1 Moon Capsule to Include Legos, Snoopy Pins
NASA has been working on the Space Launch System (SLS) for more than a decade, and we may finally see the super heavy-lift rocket head into space for the first time later this month. When the SLS and its Orion capsule kick off the Artemis lunar program, they’ll be carrying an unusual assortment of items. NASA plans to pack the capsule full of flags, Snoopy pins, a moon rock, Lego minifigs, and a piece of an Apollo rocket.
Artemis 1 is the first of five planned launches for the SLS, which is an expendable rocket with a launch cost of over $2 billion. Although, some estimates peg it at more than $4 billion, which is a potentially unsustainable number. There won’t be any crew aboard this first mission. The Orion capsule will head out to the moon, complete an orbit, and then return to Earth as a way to demonstrate the capabilities of the spacecraft. Rather than let the capsule remain empty, NASA is filling it with nicknacks.
In total, Orion will contain 120 pounds (54 kilograms) of these items. You can check out the full list of fly-along items (PDF), but this practice is nothing new. NASA has long included keepsakes of Earth on space missions. The Voyager probes famously include a gold record with recordings from home, and the final Space Shuttle mission included a cache of metals that were later melted down to create awards for NASA staff.
Right at the top of the list for the Artemis I payload is a USB flash drive containing the names of everyone who signed up to be included in the “Fly your name” campaign. More than three million people registered for that. There will also be large numbers of Artemis patches, program pins, and other keepsakes that will be distributed to mission contributors. In the same vein, there will be several hundred Snoopy pins, Girl Scout space badges, and US flags.
NASA says it will also include a small moon rock collected by the Apollo 11 crew (which was also on the final Space Shuttle mission), as well as a bolt from one of Apollo 11’s F-1 engines. There will be a few bags of seeds, too. NASA plans to give the seeds to educational organizations and teachers to foster interest in science. NASA didn’t explain what it’s going to do with the four Lego minifigs, but the agency has partnered with Lego for years on learning initiatives.
Currently, NASA has lined up three potential launch dates for Artemis 1, the earliest being on August 29th. Failing that, NASA can try again on September 2nd and September 5th. Orion will take several weeks to complete its mission and return to Earth. If all goes as planned, a crewed lunar flyby is next in 2024. Artemis 3 is the flight that will return humanity to the surface of the moon for the first time in more than 50 years. It’s currently on the books for 2025 at the earliest.