Charlie Brown and Snoopy go to the moon

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 18, 2011 10:13 PM

May seems to have a lot of fun anniversaries. The other day I wrote about the 25th anniversary of Top Gun. I also saw recently that May, and May 18th in particular, is the 859th anniversary of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. They married in 1152 in what was, by all accounts, an elaborate celebration. Their nasty union however, especially the latter years, was chronicled in the fabulous 1968 film starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter.

May 18 is also the anniversary of the 1969 launch of the fourth manned mission of the Apollo space program, Apollo 10. Classified as an F type mission, it was to provide a dry run for the famed Apollo 11 moon landing, but without actually landing on the moon. The lunar module actually came within 8.4 nautical miles of the moon’s surface. The commander was Thomas Stafford, the pilot was John Young and the lunar module pilot was Eugene Cernan.

Many incredible things happened during this mission, including Apollo 10 setting the record for the highest speed ever attained (at the time) for a manned vehicle. It was also famous for the call signs given to the service and lunar modules. Ladies and gentleman, say hello to Charlie Brown and Snoopy respectively.

As unofficial mascots, the two inseparable comic strip pals blasted into space at 16:49:00 on 5/18/1969, Charlie Brown in space coveralls and Snoopy in his Flying Ace scarf. When they returned to Earth on May 26, the recovery team from the USS Princeton painted “Hello ‘der Charlie Brown” on the underside of the helicopter.

The relationship between NASA and Charles Schultz, the creator of Peanuts in 1950, began when the space agency asked Schultz to join the mission in hopes of cheering up the country, still saddened by the tragedy of Apollo 1 and the loss of three astronauts in a launch pad fire. Schultz was convinced that the men would one day walk on the moon so he kicked off a week-long series of comics where Snoopy made it his personal mission to be the first beagle on the moon.

He succeeded.

As did the Snoopy lunar module. Abandoned in space it likely crashed onto the moon’s surface. The Charlie Brown service module landed in the Pacific Ocean and is currently on loan at the Science Museum in London where it is proudly displayed.

No word on Snoopy’s famous scarf.

Good grief.

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