Czech Little Mole faces space challenge on Soyuz launch

Oleg Artemjev, Richard Arnold, Andrew Feustel, photo: CTK

The legendary Czech cartoon character, Krteček, or Little Mole, is heading into space once again. US astronaut Andrew Feustel, who brought Little Mole into space on board the Endeavour spaceship in 2011, is taking him along on the Soyuz MS spacecraft, scheduled for launch on Wednesday.

Oleg Artemjev,  Richard Arnold,  Andrew Feustel,  photo: CTK
Little Mole is not the only Czech thing Andrew Feustel is bringing to space. The US astronaut, whose wife Indira has Czech roots, is also taking the cover page of the magazine Vedem. It was established by a Jewish boy called Petr Ginz in the Terezín ghetto during the Second World War.

Since his return from space in 2011, the Little Mole character has been engaged in a long-term educational project called Flying to Space with Little Mole. It attempts to get children interested in space.

Pavel Suchan of the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, which takes part in the project, says it wasn’t that easy to get Krteček on board of the Soyuz space shuttle:

“It isn’t as easy as in the case of the Endeavour shuttle, which was much more spacious. The Little Mole that flew in 2011 is about 20 centimetres tall and he cannot fit into the Soyuz rocket. And we don’t want him to fly in a supply ship.

Soyuz MS spacecraft,  Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan,  March 19,  2018,  photo: CTK
“Andrew Feustel is still figuring out how to get a smaller Mole on board and he promised to come up with a surprise solution. We are hoping that the Mole will replace the traditional Soyuz mascot, which is attached on a spring and is lifted into the air once it reaches weightlessness.”

Mr Feustel is also taking along a copy of a painting by Petr Ginz called ‘Moon Landscape’, which was on board the Columbia space shuttle when it exploded in 2003, to mark the memory of the Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died on board the shuttle.

The flight of the Soyuz MS spacecraft was announced about two years ago and is scheduled for launch on Wednesday. Pavel Suchan outlines the details of its mission:

“The mission is called Soyuz MS 08 and there are three members on the crew: Andrew Feustel, his US colleague Richard Arnold and Russian Oleg Artemjev. This three-member crew will reach the International Space Station to serve on the Expedition 55.

“Andrew Feustel will also stay for the following Expedition 56, which will last until the end of August, and will in fact be heading the International Space Station during that time.”

Andrew Feustel has already participated in two previous shuttle missions: one in 2009 to service the Hubble Space Telescope and another in 2011 to help finish construction of the space station.

This is the third time Andrew Feustel is taking something Czech with him to space. On his first mission, he had a book of poems entitled Cosmic Songs by the 19th century Czech writer Jan Neruda.