When SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule launched on its first uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station on March 2, it brought along an adorable Earth plushy as a "super high tech zero-g indicator." The toy, made by a company called Celestial Buddies, quickly became a spaceflight celebrity as online viewers watched it bob weightlessly around the Dragon capsule on its way to the station during live webcasts of its launch and docking.
When the three Expedition 58 crewmembers at the orbiting laboratory opened the hatch to greet their new companion, it was love at first sight. Click through this gallery to see some out-of-this-world photos of the little Earth in orbit!
In this photo, "little Earth" gawks at its home planet while looking out the Cupola window at the International Space Station. "Yes buddy, that’s your Mother Earth," NASA astronaut Anne McClain tweeted. "Isn’t she beautiful?"
A Celestial Buddies Earth was not the only "passenger" on the Crew Dragon — SpaceX also included an anthropomorphic test dummy (ATD) called Ripley. The dummy was strapped into one of the seats in the Dragon while the "zero-g indicator" was placed on top of a seat with no restraints other than a long tether connecting it to one of the seats.
The Celestial Buddies Earth looks really impressed by NASA astronaut Anne McClain's spacesuit as the two exchange googly eyes inside the International Space Station on March 4, 2019.
"Earth will learn a lot during his busy week on @Space_Station," McClain tweeted. "Today he kept me company while we checked our suit sizing to account for space growth (I am 2 inches taller than when I launched!), then we did some translation adaptation."
A photo of the Celestial Buddy's backside, tweeted by Anne McClain, reveals the string by which it was tethered to a seat inside the Crew Dragon. Astronauts can now use that tether to anchor the floating planet plush to points inside the station — that way he won't easily drift away and get lost.
Fully equipped with earbuds and a sweatband, the Celestial Buddies Earth takes a look at the workout schedule for the day.
"It is important to exercise every day, not just for our muscles but also to protect our bones from losing density in microgravity," McClain tweeted.
Little Earth looks a bit intimidated by the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED), a versatile workout machine that puts the "weight" back in "weightlessness" with simulated resistance. Located in the Unity Node of the International Space Station, astronauts can use this machine to exercise all major muscle groups.
"Little Earth" doesn't know what to make of this strange space coffee that comes in a pouch instead of a plain old coffee cup. "Earth’s second day on @Space_Station started early, but he was happy to learn that even in space, the day starts off with coffee," NASA astronaut Anne McClain tweeted on March 5.
After joining the Expedition 58 crew for coffee, the "Celestial Buddy" joined Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques for some important emergency drills. "Emergency mask donning practice with @Astro_DavidS – if there’s an (unlikely) ammonia leak, we have just seconds to protect ourselves," NASA astronaut Anne McClain tweeted on March 5.
After receiving a nudge from Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques shortly after the Dragon docked at the space station, the Celestial Buddies Earth plushy went tumbling around the inside of the spacecraft.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain greets the latest addition to the International Space Station with a warm smile during a welcoming ceremony on March 3.
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques gets a hand from the little Earth while doing some routine maintenance around the International Space Station on March 4, 2019.
"Busy 2nd day for Earth on @Space_Station — removing a constituent analyzer with @Astro_DavidS and some plumbing work with me," McClain tweeted.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain and her "Celestial Buddy" wear protective goggles and masks while taking care of some plumbing at the International Space Station on March 4, 2019.
"Preventative maintenance keeps us flying! He also learned how schedules keep us synced with the ground control centers," McClain tweeted.
Little Earth is amazed at how astronauts manage their busy schedules! "He also learned how schedules keep us synced with the ground control centers," McClain tweeted.
On its third day at the International Space Station, the little Earth enjoyed a "candlelight dinner" with Paxi, the European Space Agency's education mascot. Because open flames are dangerous inside the orbiting laboratory, the candle was fake. However, the shrimp cocktail inside that vacuum-sealed pouch is real space food!
You can read all about Paxi's space adventures and check out cute Paxi cartoons here.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques pose for photos with the Celestial Buddies Earth plushy after a video conference with Vice President Mike Pence and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on March 6.
Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques teaches the "Celestial Buddy" a lesson about the Russian Soyuz spacecraft and descent procedures. The Soyuz is currently the only crew vehicle that ferries astronauts to and from the International Space Station, but SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner are scheduled to start launching astronauts later this year.
From inside the Cupola, little Earth has an excellent view of the Canadarm2 robotic arm outside the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain briefs the "Celestial Buddy" on proper trash management procedures at the International Space Station.
"Earth’s 3rd day was busy! Briefings on how we manage trash and how to work the controls for @csa_asc Canadarm2 (no, you cannot take it for a spin!), then a lesson on Soyuz descent with @Astro_DavidS (our lifeboat to get home in an evacuation, have to keep skills sharp)," she tweeted.