Museum Soars 'To The Moon' with Snoopy in Space Exhibit
Headed for the launch pad, Apollo 10 commander Tom Stafford pats the nose of a stuffed Snoopy held by Jamye Flowers (Coplin), astronaut Gordon Cooper's secretary.
Credit: NASA

Four months before the first humans landed on the Moon in 1969, a beagle beat them to it.

More important than racing the Russians, or passing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, was that this "World Famous Astronaut" had beat "that stupid cat who lives next door."

Of course, Snoopy's moon trip only took place in the daily "Peanuts" comic strips created by Charles M. Schulz and syndicated in newspapers the week of March 10, 1969.

Two months later though, Snoopy - along with his owner Charlie Brown - took a different trip to the Moon, only this time it was for real. Serving as the spacecraft names for NASA's final lunar landing dress rehearsal, Charlie Brown and Snoopy cleared the way for Neil and Buzz to become the first men on the Moon.

Snoopy's space flights, both those real and imagined, are celebrated in "To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA", a six-month exhibit that opened Saturday at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California.

Approaching the Moon

"We were thinking about the fact that it was the 40th anniversary of Apollo 10 and how wonderful it would be to explore that connection between the Peanuts characters and NASA," curator Jane O'Cain told collectSPACE.

The resulting exhibition, which runs January 31 through the 40th anniversary of the first manned moon landing on July 20, 2009, uses both space exploration and Schulz artifacts to guide visitors through the past four decades of Snoopy's space adventures.

Divided into four themed-sections, "Snoopy Soars with NASA" first introduces how the comic strip beagle came to serve as the space agency's official safety watchdog.

In 1968, Snoopy began promoting safety awareness and contamination control within NASA facilities appearing on posters, many of which are on display in the exhibit. The agency was granted use of the cartoon character so long as Schulz drew Snoopy on all the NASA-related material and a copyright notice accompanied the artwork.

"I believe their thought was that Snoopy was such a wildly popular character that it was a way to gain people's attention and get them to concentrate more on what was going on," explained O'Cain.

Schulz's first drawing of Snoopy as an astronaut was not for a poster but rather a pin to be flown in space and then rewarded to fewer than 1% of the NASA workforce yearly.

"We have [in the exhibit] the original drawing that Schulz did for the template for the Silver Snoopy award pin," said O'Cain of the "astronauts' personal award" presented for outstanding contributions to their missions' success. "It is fascinating because it was his first attempt at drawing Snoopy as an astronaut. You can actually see the pencil under-drawing as he grappled with where would Snoopy's arms be if he was carrying the [oxygen supply] suitcase and how would he draw the actual suit."

Fortunately, Schulz had hands-on access to a flight suit courtesy the co-owner of the company chosen to mint the Silver Snoopy pins, by nature he was also in the Marines.

"So Don Fraser actually brought out his flight suit to Schulz's office here in Santa Rosa so that Schulz could kind of get an idea about how to go about drawing Snoopy as an astronaut," recounted O'Cain. "I am kind of hoping that people will appreciate the kind of stretch that Schulz went to capture Snoopy in that way."

Entering lunar orbit

As a secretary in the Astronaut Office in 1969, Jamye Flowers was assigned on temporary duty to the Cape for about six weeks prior to launch to work with the Apollo 10 prime, backup, and support crews in the crew quarters' offices. It was there that Flowers got caught up in the pre- flight preparations... literally.

Standing in the hallway where the Apollo 10 astronauts would pass on their way to their ride to the launch pad, Flowers held a large stuffed Snoopy doll...

Continue reading at collectSPACE, where you can also view photographs from the "Snoopy Soars with NASA" exhibit and see Charles Schulz's original rendering of Snoopy as an astronaut.

Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.