EDITORIAL: Speaking of little spacemen …

Snoopy traded his Sopwith Camel for an Orion Lunar Capsule, and humanity is a step closer to setting foot on the moon once again.

A custom-made stuffed version of the famous Peanuts beagle was included in NASA's lunar-orbit test run, a first step in its Artemis program that aims to return Americans to the surface of the moon.

Snoopy was included as the zero-G indicator during a 25-day flight that launched in November and logged more than 1.4 million miles looping around the moon and back. Snoopy's ride represents a borrowed tradition from the Russian space program in which a toy is used to signal when a craft enters the microgravity environment of space.

The capsule's flight video showed Snoopy floating at the end of a tether at the bottom of the Orion spacecraft's crew cabin, admiring the view. Last week, back at Kennedy Space Center, Snoopy was ready to be unpacked from the capsule, likely eager to head home and share the details of his adventure with Woodstock and the Peanuts gang.

Snoopy shared the flight with an instrumented mannequin dubbed Commander Moonikin Campos. Both made it home no worse for the wear.

After landing off the coast of Baja California on Dec. 11, the Orion capsule, with passengers intact, was transported by truck from Naval Base San Diego to Cape Canaveral, Space.com reports. It arrived in Florida on Dec. 30. That's one long flight and one long ride.

Engineers have removed Orion's exterior panels and are conducting post-flight study and analysis. Snoopy's flight was intended as a test of the craft's advanced new heat shield, which now has proven capable of reaching the moon and re-entering Earth's atmosphere safely. This step 1 in the Artemis program also verified that Orion's systems are ready for astronauts of the organic, human variety.

The next Artemis mission will send live astronauts around the moon. And after that, it's another small step for mankind.

Snoopy and the Peanuts gang have long been ambassadors for the space program. The Apollo 10 lunar module was named Snoopy and its command module Charlie Brown. And the Silver Snoopy award is one of the highest honors bestowed by NASA to employees and contractors whose work helped bring home astronauts safely.

Meanwhile, if Snoopy spotted any space-born Red Barons between here and the moon, our famous lunar scout is playing Joe Cool and not talking.

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