On May 18, 1969, Apollo 10 astronauts Thomas Stafford, Gene Cernan and John Young launched from (what was then) Cape Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39B. Apollo 10 was a complete “dress rehearsal” Moon landing, without actually making contact with the lunar surface. It was an important mission as Apollo 11 would not be ready to land on the Moon as planned without Apollo 10’s run-through.
As we remember the 50th anniversary of Apollo 10, and the later Moon landing of Apollo 11, history shows us that these missions were, in fact, successful. What many may not know is the relationship between Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts” characters and NASA during this mission and throughout its history.
NASA began collaborating with Schulz in the 1960s. As a popular household character, Snoopy became the mascot for NASA’s spaceflight safety initiative. Schulz created comic strips of Snoopy on the Moon, helping to inspire excitement about America’s space program.
These beloved characters became the mascots of Apollo 10. The command module was named Charlie Brown and the lunar module was named Snoopy. Because the lunar module was set to skim over the surface of the Moon, it was named Snoopy because it was going to “snoop” around Apollo 11’s future landing site. Therefore, it was also fitting that the command module be named Charlie Brown, Snoopy’s companion. When the lunar module rendezvoused with the command module after surveying the Moon’s surface, astronaut Thomas Stafford said, "Snoopy and Charlie Brown are hugging each other."
NASA’s Silver Snoopy award was also created during this era and remains to this day. It is a high honor awarded to NASA employees and contractors by astronauts. It celebrates achievements related to mission success and human flight safety. Each silver pin given with this award, depicting astronaut Snoopy, was flown on a space shuttle mission.
Today, the partnership continues. In 2018, NASA announced that they were once again joining Peanuts Worldwide to share educational activities with future space explorers. The science, technology, engineering and math curriculum will focuses on NASA’s deep space exploration missions with the cheerful beagle as the face of the activities.
While at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, be sure to visit the astronaut Snoopy statue at the Apollo/Saturn V Center! Plus, you can pick up some charming Peanuts-themed NASA memorabilia at the Space Shop.
Image Credits: NASA and Charles Schultz