No, Thumper wasn’t from the Disney Bambi movies. In fact, the “zero gram meter” aboard the first special mission to visit the International Space Station, Ax-1, was the mascot of the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. The stuffed animal is seen floating inside SpaceX’s Dragon Crew ‘Endeavour’ shortly after the spacecraft entered Earth orbit with the crew.
With the elongated ears and cartoonish look of embroidered eyes, the brown and tan plush puppy looked a lot like a Disney rabbit.
“It looks like the crew is starting to adjust to zero grams, and if you look in the right corner, it looks like we can see the zero g indicator,” said Kate Tice, SpaceX’s director of systems engineering quality.
Axiom Space said caramel played an important role as an indicator of the mission’s weightlessness. It must be remembered that these indicators of weightlessness are small objects, usually stuffed toys, chosen by space crews to provide a clear visual indication that they have reached microgravity.
This tradition began in Russia, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin took a small doll on the world’s first manned spaceflight in 1961. Since then, many other Russian cosmonauts have followed suit, often letting their children choose the toy.
The first of four SpaceX crews bound for the International Space Station chose plush dolls depicting a dinosaur, Star Wars Baby Yoda, a penguin and a sea turtle as zero-gravity indicators.
The Ax-1 team chose caramel as an indicator due to the partnership with the Montreal Children’s Hospital. One of the mission’s crew is Canadian Mark Bathy, whose knowledge at the station will include many projects led by researchers at this hospital.
“Investigations include research into chronic pain and sleep disturbances during space travel, which potentially have an impact on the real world,” Axiom’s statement read.
To celebrate the mascot’s role in the Ax-1 mission and to raise money for her research, the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation is giving away a souvenir of caramel amaranth for a $200 donation. Donors will also receive the Ax-1 mission patch. A letter of authenticity.
However, shipping is limited to the US and Canada, and quantities are limited: 1,000 dolls are available for shipping.
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