How Snoopy the dog became NASA’s mascot for safety

In October 1950, American cartoonist Charles Schulz debuted a new character in the comic strip ‘Peanuts’. His name was Snoopy, an anthropomorphic dog who became one of the series’ most recognisable personalities.

Snoopy caught NASA’s eye in the mid-1960s. The agency was looking for a well-known symbol to use to spearhead a campaign to reinforce to its employees how important their work was when it came to the safety of a mission and the astronauts flying it.

NASA approached Charles Schulz about the possibility of a collaboration, which Schulz readily agreed to. The result was the ‘Silver Snoopy’ pin. A fan of the space programme, Schulz didn’t charge NASA for the use of Snoopy’s likeness and even designed the image on which the pin was based himself.

A ‘Silver Snoopy’ Pin | Credit: NASA

Being awarded the pin – a tradition NASA continues to do to this day – is recognition of an employee’s commitment to safety or mission success. It is awarded to less than 1% of NASA’s workforce each year. To be eligible to receive it, an employee has to meet at least two of the following criteria:

  • ‘Significantly contributing beyond their normal work requirements.
  • Performing a single specific achievement which contributed towards attaining a particular programme goal.
  • Contributing to one or more major cost saving/cost avoidance.
  • Instrumental in developing programme modifications that increase quality, reliability, safety, efficiency, or performance.
  • Developing or assisting with an operational improvement that increases efficiency and performance.
  • Developing a process improvement of significant magnitude.’

Each of the pins awarded today was flown onboard one of the Space Shuttles, and is always presented to the employee by an astronaut – their lives depend on such performances, after all. The employee also receives a commendation letter and a signed Snoopy certificate.

That’s not Snoopy’s only connection to NASA. The crew of Apollo 10 named their lunar module after the cartoon dog (because it was going to ‘snoop’ out the area around the Sea of Tranquillity where Apollo 11 was planned to land), while their command module was named ‘Charlie Brown’ to match!

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