This week, Earth was introduced to something adorably wonderful: Little Earth.
Little Earth, also called Buddy, has enjoyed an eventful week tagging along with the astronauts on the International Space Station after launching on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on Saturday.
The plush toy, made by Celestial Buddies, launched alongside space-suited dummy Ripley.
Ripley, obviously named in honor of Ellen Ripley from the “Alien” movies, was meant to make sure that the first commercially operated spacecraft designed to carry astronauts would be safe and comfortable for humans. Ripley even has little sensors at key points like the head, neck and spine to see what the experience might be like for astronauts who could be using it as soon as this summer.
But Little Earth’s ridealong wasn’t expected, and he’s stealing much of Ripley’s thunder. To be fair, Ripley is probably just missing Starman, the similar-looking space-suited dummy driving Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla Roadster in an elliptical orbit around Mars that was launched last year.
Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, teased Little Earth’s appearance on Twitter the day before the Dragon launch, tweeting “Super high tech zero-g indicator added just before launch!” with a picture of Little Earth.
Toys have been along for the ride on launches before, especially to show when zero gravity is reached, but Little Earth’s permanent expression of wonderment makes him one of the cutest.
Musk later shared a video of the toy floating, establishing when the Dragon reached zero gravity. “Earth floats gently in zero gravity,” Musk tweeted.
The Dragon docked, ushering in a new era of human spaceflight, the hatch opened, and Little Earth’s first week on the station officially began.
In case you haven’t been following the plush toy’s adventures on astronaut Anne McClain’s Twitter, here’s a recap.
Hanging out in space
Little Earth kicked off the week by getting the best view of Big Earth. “Yes, buddy, that’s your Mother Earth. Isn’t she beautiful?” McClain tweeted, accompanied by a picture that’s too cute for words.
McClain went on to assure everyone that Little Earth would be learning a lot, not just causing shenanigans.
“Today he kept me company while we checked our suit sizing to account for space growth (I am 2 inches taller than when I launched!), then we did some translation adaptation,” McClain tweeted.
On Tuesday, Little Earth was up early with the astronauts, slurping down coffee and trying on an emergency mask that swallowed up most of his body.
“Earth’s second day on @Space_Station started early, but he was happy to learn that even in space, the day starts off with coffee. Then it was emergency mask donning practice with @Astro_DavidS - if there’s an (unlikely) ammonia leak, we have just seconds to protect ourselves,” McClain tweeted.
Even Little Earth wasn’t immune from doing the dirty work the astronauts must do all the time to keep the space station running smoothly.
“Busy 2nd day for Earth on @Space_Station - removing a constituent analyzer with @Astro_DavidS and some plumbing work with me. Preventative maintenance keeps us flying! He also learned how schedules keep us synced with the ground contol centers. What should he do tomorrow?” McClain tweeted.
Day three was all about making gains. “Earth’s 3rd day started with getting the blood (plasma?) pumping! First the treadmill, then weights - he even got some deadlifts in with me. It is important to exercise every day, not just for our muscles but also to protect our bones from losing density in microgravity,” McClain tweeted.
The workouts weren’t enough to tire him out, so he learned all about what some of the controls do – and may have tried to take a joyride.
“Earth’s 3rd day was busy! Briefings on how we manage trash and how to work the controls for @csa_asc Canadarm2 (no, you cannot take it for a spin!), then a lesson on Soyuz descent with @Astro_DavidS (our lifeboat to get home in an evacuation, have to keep skills sharp)…” McClain tweeted.
But the day ended with a special guest, the European Space Agency’s own buddy, Paxi.
“then a favorite of the crew, group dinner! The candlelight dinner was also attended by Paxi, who is from @esa,” McClain tweeted.
Little Earth even made an appearance when Vice President Mike Pence spoke with the astronauts to congratulate them on the launch. That little guy really is a scene stealer.
Musk tweeted at McClain and suggested that “Buddy is like an Earth Pokemon.”
The Crew Dragon capsule successfully splashed down with Ripley on board Friday morning. Little Earth, however, will stay on station with the astronauts until July, so we can look forward to more fun photos.
”.@AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug will bring the microgravity indicator, Earthy, back from @Space_Station on Demo-2,” NASA Commercial Crew tweeted.
And this month, McClain will be one of two astronauts conducting the first all-female spacewalk in history.
By now, you’re probably wanting a Little Earth of your own. Well, you’ll have to wait.
Celestial Buddies, the company that makes the cute little fellow, wasn’t aware that he would be included in such a pioneering launch. So he’s sold out, for now.
“We at Celestial Buddies had no advance information about Earth’s participation in the launch, although a sudden flurry of orders for Earth in the 48 hours prior to lift off had made us wonder if something was afoot,” according to the company’s website. “By the time the rocket left Cape Kennedy, however, our entire inventory of Earth had been completely sold out, with scores of orders still unfilled.
“We apologize for our current lack of Earths … we have never had a product on backorder before … but we have never had one of our products launched into space before, and we were taken totally by surprise. Thus, our reorder will not be in our warehouse until the end of April.”
Little Earth has other playful planetary pals, like Our Precious Planet, a larger and more detailed Earth that serves as a “gentle introduction to global warming and climate change.” There’s also a fuzzy sun, the planets of the solar system sporting various cute facial expressions, a cuddly comet, a black hole that devours a comet and the adorable duo of a smiling Pluto and Charon.