When Ripley the dummy astronaut returned to Earth today (March 8) on SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, it left its cute friend "little Earth" behind on the International Space Station.
SpaceX loaded the adorable, anthropomorphic Earth plushy — which is made by a company called Celestial Buddies — into the Crew Dragon capsule to serve as a "super high tech zero-g indicator" during the launch of the capsule's first uncrewed demonstration mission.
After a week of having fun with the Expedition 58 crew, the Earth plushy did not board the Crew Dragon for the spacecraft's return to Earth this morning. Instead, the so-called "Little Earthy" (or is it Little Earthie? SpaceX did not clarify) will be sticking around until the next Crew Dragon mission returns from the space station this summer, SpaceX engineer Kate Tice said during a live webcast of the splashdown today.
"He's not coming back until you bring him back for us," Tice told NASA astronaut Bob Behnken during the webcast. Behnken will be one of the two astronauts on board the vessel during Crew Dragon Demo-2, the first crewed test flight of the Crew Dragon, which is scheduled to launch in July. He and NASA astronaut Doug Hurley will spend 14 days at the station.
After the Expedition 58 crew posted several photos of "Little Earthy" taking tours of the International Space Station and "learning" about spaceflight on social media, Tice asked Behnken what he might teach his cute little crewmember once he arrives at the station. "I think our plan is to have him teach us — he's gonna welcome us aboard when we get there," Behnken said.
The Celestial Buddy wasn't the only piece of cargo that got left behind when the Crew Dragon departed the space station today. An American flag that came up with the Crew Dragon will also stay on the station until the next Crew Dragon mission returns, Kathryn Lueders, the program manager for NASA's Commercial Crew program, told Space.com. It also delivered about 400 lbs. (181 kilograms) of supplies and gear for the station crew.
- Astronaut Anne McClain Is Having a Ball in Space with Her 'Celestial Buddy'
- New 'Celestial Buddies' Earth Plush Is Even Cooler than SpaceX's 'Zero-G Indicator'
- 'Little Earth' on SpaceX Crew Dragon Gives Boost to Celestial Buddies
Get the Space.com Newsletter
Breaking space news, the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!
Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.