Snoopy, the Peanuts gang and NASA's plans for exploring the moon received a "go" to launch as a new stage show debuted at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.
In "All Systems Are Go," Charles Schulz's iconic comic strip characters are brought to life for the first time as life-size puppets that walk, talk and even float weightless in the microgravity environment of space. The 20-minute production combines expansive digital video projections, lighting effects and an original soundtrack that together bring guests along as Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy and more learn about and share in NASA's past, present and future missions.
"It's probably one of the most clever shows I have ever seen," said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, as he greeted the first audience to experience "All Systems Are Go" on Friday morning (March 24). "It's different, but it's educational and a lot of fun."
As the show begins, Snoopy and his feathered friend Woodstock receive a letter from NASA launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson. After more than 50 years of service as a safety mascot for the U.S. human spaceflight program, Snoopy is needed by the space agency again. This time, he is to report for training as NASA prepares to go back to the moon.
"Excuse me, I'm looking for my dog, Snoopy. He's a black-and-white beagle with delusions of grandeur," says Charlie Brown as he arrives at NASA.
"It's really hard to describe the emotions," said Blackwell-Thompson, reacting to seeing herself in the show. "Snoopy is so special. He was special to me when I was growing up, and special to kids today."
Blackwell-Thompson appears in a recorded video segment as part of the show.
"Then to have that connection to space and inspire the next generation, knowing the places we are going to go, it was an incredibly special experience for me. I just felt very blessed to be part of that," she said in an interview with collectSPACE.com.
As explained by the Peanuts characters (who are voiced by the same child actors featured in the Apple TV+ series "Snoopy in Space"), Artemis is intended to pick up and build upon the work started by Apollo. The program will prepare astronauts to not just return to the lunar surface, but adapt to living there in preparation for expeditions to Mars and more distant spots in our solar system.
"I think anytime that we connect our youth to what we're doing in exploration is incredible," said Blackwell-Thompson. "It's so important because it is that generation, that next generation — that Artemis generation — that is going to sustain a presence on the moon and that is going to go to Mars and be those first footprints."
"I think any time that we have an opportunity to reach out to our youth and to inspire them to share our history and share in our future, where we are going, it is a very special experience for me," she said.
In addition to Blackwell-Thompson, "All Systems Are Go" features Peanuts-style illustrations and animations of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft, like what was used to send a one-of-a-kind Snoopy doll around the moon on the Artemis 1 mission in 2022, and what will carry four astronauts back to the moon as soon as the end of next year.
At one point in the show (described as a "few years from now"), Lucy and Sally don spacesuits to represent NASA's pledge to land the first woman on the moon, while Franklin does the same to stand in for the first person of color.
"I wonder if they would consider letting me be the first woman on the moon," Lucy ponders in an earlier scene.
"I think you need years of training to be an astronaut," replies Charlie Brown.
"That's true, and I do have plans for later today," says Lucy. "Plus those suits — orange really isn't my color."
"I'm happy to see how people were receptive and liked the characters in the puppet form," said Ella Louise Allaire, chief executive officer and founder of Monlove, the Montreal-based production company that created "All Systems Are Go" for Peanuts Worldwide and NASA.
"I was happy to see people laughing at the jokes. I think it was very nice because you never know if people are going to like them."
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.