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NASA's Artemis I Will Send Shaun the Sheep Around the Moon

The first "astronaut" of the Artemis age has been announced.

Shaun the Sheep in a flight suit, gesturing toward a model of a satellite
The animated astronaut the world has been waiting for. 

NASA's next-generation big rocket is about ready to finally get off the ground, and now we know who will be flying on the Artemis I mission that's headed to the moon. Well, sort of. 

The European Space Agency announced Tuesday that Shaun the Sheep, the famed stop-motion British TV character, will be aboard the first flight of the new Space Launch System to kick off the Artemis program, which will eventually return astronauts to the surface of the moon. 

Artemis I will be an uncrewed mission that will send NASA's Orion spacecraft with an ESA service module attached on a cruise by our natural satellite. The plush woolly toy astronaut will have an epic view of the cosmos all to himself, it seems. 

The mission will see Orion and Shaun fly almost 500,000 kilometers (311,000 miles) from Earth, which is further than any human or stop-motion animation character has ever traveled. 

To "train" for the journey, Shaun has also been seen on a parabolic flight on a special Airbus "zero g" A310 aircraft that creates the weightless condition similar to microgravity. 

Artemis I is set to launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as soon as Aug. 29. NASA's Space Launch System has been subject to many years of delays that have seen an entire commercial space industry, led by SpaceX, blossom and fill the vacuum in the interim. 

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