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Why manikins and Snoopy will make up the crew of NASA's Artemis I mission

NASA's Artemis I rocket sits on launch pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center ahead of its uncrewed flight around the moon.
Joe Raedle
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Getty Images
NASA's Artemis I rocket sits on launch pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center ahead of its uncrewed flight around the moon.

While no humans will be aboard NASA's Artemis I mission, the Orion spacecraft won't be empty. Snoopy, Girl Scout badges, LEGO minifigures and tree seeds are just some of the thousands of mementos that will be aboard when the mission launches Monday.

There will also be a lot of technology that will gather data during the 42-day, 1.3 million-mile mission that will take the uncrewed spacecraft as far as 280,000 miles away from Earth, circling the moon before heading home.

It's been nearly 50 years since people have set foot on the moon, so the test flight will also be a trial of the new rocket and spacecraft before a crewed flight.

"We're mindful that this is a purposeful stress test of the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System Rocket," Mike Sarafin, the mission manager for Artemis I, said at a press conference Saturday.

"We will learn a great deal from the Artemis I test flight. And through this experience, we will change and modify anything necessary to prepare ourselves for a crewed flight on the very next mission."

NASA is planning to send humans to the moon in 2025. As part of the preparation, the passengers aboard this mission will be manikins.

Commander Moonikin Campos will wear one of the new Orion Crew Survival System spacesuits that will include two radiation sensors.
/ NASA
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NASA
Commander Moonikin Campos will wear one of the new Orion Crew Survival System spacesuits that will include two radiation sensors.

Meet Commander Moonikin Campos

This manikin got its name from a public contest and was ultimately named after Arturo Campos, the NASA engineer who was instrumental in getting the Apollo 13 crew back to Earth safely.

Moonikin Campos will sit in the commander's seat. Under the seat are sensors to measure acceleration and vibration to help assess what human crew members might experience during a flight. Campos will be all decked out in the official Orion Crew Survival System spacesuit that will include two radiation sensors.

And while Moonikin Campos could certainly have all the fun, it won't be alone. Two other manikins will be seated with it.

Helga and Zohar, the manikin torsos that are also known as phantoms, will also sit with Moonikin Campos. Their part of the mission involves data collection on the radiation levels astronauts may encounter on future lunar missions.
/ NASA
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NASA
Helga and Zohar, the manikin torsos that are also known as phantoms, will also sit with Moonikin Campos. Their part of the mission involves data collection on the radiation levels astronauts may encounter on future lunar missions.

Helga and Zohar are what NASA calls phantoms — or manikin torsos made up of materials that mimic human bones, soft tissues and adult female organs. A big part of their mission involves radiation detection and measurement.

"Zohar will wear a radiation protection vest, called AstroRad, while Helga will not," NASA said in a description of the manikins' duties. "The study will provide valuable data on radiation levels astronauts may encounter on lunar missions and evaluate the effectiveness of the protective vest that could allow crew to exit the storm shelter and continue working on critical mission activities in spite of a solar storm."

Don't forget about Snoopy

While there are many miscellaneous items joining the exciting Artemis I mission, none might be as recognizable as Snoopy the black and white dog created by American cartoonist Charles M. Schulz.

Snoopy is not new to NASA and has been tied to moon missions since 1969 when the lunar module of the Apollo 10 mission was nicknamed Snoopy because of its role in scouting out or "snooping around" a landing site for the Apollo 11 mission.

Schulz also created cartoons of Snoopy on the moon that captured "public excitement about America's achievements in space" during the Apollo years, according to NASA.

This time though, Snoopy has a mission of his own. Because the Artemis I mission is uncrewed, a plush Snoopy will serve as a zero gravity indicator to show the team on the ground when the spacecraft reaches weightlessness.

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