A Beagle and The Bishop Go To The Moon

Arts & Culture

Pictured: Image courtesy of Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.

Two months before Neil Armstrong made his historic first steps on the lunar surface, newspapers across the nation carried the story of another moon landing—this time by a dog. Not the cosmonautic corpse of some less-lucky Laika, but an all-American cultural icon loved by families everywhere. That Snoopy the Beagle was entirely fictional and his spaceship looked suspiciously like a doghouse were mere quibbles. From Apollo to Artemis, Snoopy has been part of the NASA family since 1968, when he became the organization’s first safety mascot. And in the latest exhibition on display at the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, families can experience the full story of the historic partnership between America’s astronauts and its premiere illustrator.

Called To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA, the traveling exhibition on loan from the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center takes museum-goers all the way back to 1967, when NASA and the nation were reeling from the Apollo 1 fire, which took the lives of three astronauts. Looking for their own Smokey Bear to promote a culture of safety, NASA reached out to Schulz, who readily agreed to send Snoopy into space. Visitors to the exhibition will get a chance to see all sorts of artifacts from the beginning of this fruitful collaboration, including copies of those original Peanuts comic strips and a reproduction of the first drawing Schulz ever made of Snoopy in his astronaut gear. Also on loan, a film composed of archival footage and interviews, including with Schulz himself, about the Apollo 10 mission, with its Command and Lunar modules affectionately dubbed “Charlie Brown” and “Snoopy” by the astronauts who flew them.

In addition to the objects and displays on loan from the Schulz Museum, The Bishop has augmented the exhibition with items on loan from local collectors. These include a rare Snoopy astronaut doll autographed by an Apollo 10 astronaut, as well as a coveted Silver Snoopy pin. An award conferred by NASA for significant contributions to safety and mission awareness, the Silver Snoopy is given to less than 1% of NASA employees and contractors and always presented by an actual astronaut.

With plenty of opportunity for fun with the kids, the exhibition also features a large-scale photo backdrop of Snoopy on the moon, complete with space-themed props so that kids can pose for pictures, as well as multiple “life-sized” Snoopy printouts guiding audiences through the experience and just generally being adorable. And for those looking to get even more hands-on, the Mosaic Backyard Universe has a station where kids can design and build their own mission patches.

The exhibition is a “natural fit,” says Director of Museum Experience Ashley Waite, for an institution already home to its own planetarium and a moon rock on loan from NASA. “Not many people know that Snoopy is so involved with NASA and its flight program,” Waite says. “So it felt like a really fun story to tell this summer.”

Currently on display at The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA runs through August 15. To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA is organized and toured by the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, Santa Rosa, California.

Pictured: Image courtesy of Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.

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