Star Wars fans watching the SpaceX launch last night might have seen an adorable surprise: Baby Yoda on his way to the ISS
Baby Yoda has had a pretty big year. Since the adorable alien made his debut on The Mandalorian on Disney+, he’s been everywhere, and we’re not complaining about it. You can get a Little One eyeshadow palette from ColourPop. You can make him at Build-A-Bear. He even became a hero over the summer after a young boy gifted him to firefighters risking their lives to battle wildfires in Oregon.
And now, Baby Yoda is headed to a new destination: the International Space Station.
Eagle-eyed Star Wars fans who tuned in for the livestream of last night’s SpaceX launch might have noticed the adorable stowaway on board with the four NASA astronauts who were headed to the ISS.
It turned out that there was an important reason for having Baby Yoda on board the spacecraft with the astronauts: It’s a little bit of a tradition for manned launches to head to space with a plushie toy of some sort, because it helps them know for sure when they’ve left the Earth’s gravitational pull and reached zero gravity. In other words, when Baby Yoda (or any other plushie) starts floating around the cabin, that means they’re officially far enough away from Earth to be outside of the effects of its gravity.
Past crews have done something similar. When NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley took part in SpaceX’s first ever human-manned launch over the summer, they brought a stuffed friend of their own: a sequined plushie dinosaur that their kids helped pick out. And even when the craft used in last night’s launch, the Crew Dragon, made its first test flight to the International Space Station with no people on board, it carried its own adorable zero-gravity indicator: an earth doll named Buddy. According to Business Insider, both stuffed animals sold out of stores soon after they had a representative go into space.
Still, we think Baby Yoda might just be the cutest stuffed friend ever to head into space. And he’s lucky enough to have a spot on a very important mission — after Crew Dragon docks at the International Space Station later today, its four-person team of NASA astronauts will spend six months there, making this the longest human spaceflight in NASA history. It’s also the first partner flight between NASA and SpaceX.
Want to watch video of the launch and see if you can spot Baby Yoda? NASA has videos from the launch and a continuous livestream of the ongoing mission up on their YouTube channel. The ship isn’t scheduled to dock until 8 p.m. Pacific Time, so you still have plenty of time to catch a glimpse of the most adorable crew member.