SpaceX’s latest rocket launch included a special guest: an adorable penguin toy named “Guin Guin.”
At 0949 UTC (5:49 am ET) Friday, a multinational squad of four astronauts left Earth aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship, kicking off a NASA-funded mission called Crew-2.
“Now we have a fifth crew member,” one of the astronauts, Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, explained during a live video tour of Crew Dragon in space.
The plushie appears about four minutes into the NASA video below.
Watch Crew-2 astronauts check in LIVE from space!
— NASA (@NASA) April 23, 2021
The four Crew-2 astronauts – Hoshide, Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency, and Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA – brought Guin Guin into Crew Dragon hours before the launch.
NASA’s live coverage of the Crew-2 mission began at 1:30 am ET Friday, as the astronauts got suited up in their SpaceX spacesuits. After that, they said goodbye to their families, drove to the launchpad, ascended the launch tower, and climbed aboard the spaceship.
The penguin waited patiently for its time to shine. About 12 minutes following the launch, at 6:01 am ET, the spaceship slipped into orbit, and Guin Guin took flight inside Crew Dragon.
A SpaceX live stream showed the toy bobbing about the cabin.
“He can actually fly,” Hoshide said. “Welcome, Guin Guin, to space!”
Guin Guin and the rest of the crew are due to dock at the International Space Station, at 5:10 am ET on Saturday. They’ll live and work there for about six months, before returning to Earth this fall.
The toy shows when astronauts have reached zero gravity
Spaceships have a tradition of carrying toys with them. Once the toys start to float around, observers and astronauts know the ship has left the pull of Earth’s gravity. That’s why the toys are often called zero-gravity, or zero-G, indicators.
“It was this cute, cute, fluffy penguin that’s floating around in zero-G right now,” Elon Musk, CEO and founder of SpaceX, said in a press conference following the launch.
The stuffed animal is called “My First Penguin,” Musk added. It’s manufactured and sold by Jelly Cat.
“It’s a penguin that our boys chose,” Hoshide said.
During SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission last May, the sons of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley similarly selected which toy would go into orbit. The young boys are dinosaurs enthusiasts, so a sequined plush Apatosaurus accompanied Behnken and Hurley to the space station.
Six months later, when SpaceX launched its first full-length astronaut flight for NASA, Crew-1, the astronauts brought along a toy Baby Yoda, a character from the Disney Plus show “The Mandalorian.”
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
More from Business Insider: