Where does a world-famous beagle go after a touchdown from the moon? To a theme park, of course.
Astronaut Snoopy, having returned from flying on NASA's Artemis 1 mission, has landed at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, in a new exhibit dedicated to the history between the comic strip character and the U.S. space agency.
"You'll be seeing stars with our fun new exhibit, 'To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA!' Learn more about Snoopy's love for space, plus meet Snoopy himself and snap an out-of-this-world picture!" the park promoted on its Facebook page.
Part of the annual Knott's Peanuts Celebration, a family-friendly event that celebrates the work of illustrator Charles M. Schulz, the "To The Moon" exhibit is new for this year. The NASA display and larger event (which also includes a trivia challenge, game show and concert) began on Jan. 28 and runs through Feb. 26.
Staged inside Calico Town Hall, a part of the Old West town at Knott's, "Snoopy Soars with NASA" is largely comprised of colorful printed panels that tell the story of how Schulz came to work with the space program, Snoopy's use by NASA and some of the more notable ways the Peanuts gang have appeared as part of the agency's activities and missions.
"Charles Schulz later wrote that 'perhaps the most unusual thing' that had ever happened with his characters 'was the involvement of Charlie Brown and Snoopy with the Apollo 10 Lunar Expedition in 1969," reads, in part, an introduction to the exhibit, referring to the two characters' becoming the namesakes for the moon mission's two spacecraft. "This exhibition explores the long relationship between Schulz and NASA beginning in 1968 with the inception of the 'Snoopy, the Astronaut' program, through the flight of Apollo 10, to the present as Snoopy continues his important role as NASA's safety mascot."
Lining the walls of the town hall are reproductions of some of the drawings Schultz made of the "world-famous astronaut," as well as examples of NASA safety posters, related Peanuts comic strips and newspaper clippings. A mounted screen also plays NASA footage from the Apollo 10 mission.
Interspersed between the history are also panels using the Peanuts characters to explain the basics of spaceflight. Since 2018, when NASA and Peanuts Worldwide entered a new Space Act Agreement, Snoopy's role at the agency has grown from being more than just a mascot for promoting safety, but also an outreach tool to engage the public in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics, as well as NASA's plans for future deep-space missions.
"To the Moon" does not include direct mention of Artemis 1 or the custom Snoopy doll that flew into lunar orbit as the flight's official "zero-g indicator," but comic-style representations of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft that flew on the 26-day journey are on display. The exhibit was produced by and is based on an earlier display at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California.
The highlight of "To The Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA!" though, may be the opportunity to meet Snoopy himself, sporting an orange spacesuit inspired by the one that flew in doll size and that four astronauts will wear when they launch on the Artemis 2 mission as soon as 2024. Guests are invited to pose for photos with Astronaut Snoopy in front of a large comic-style backdrop of the moon.
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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.