An adorable — and powerful — stowaway is currently on board SpaceX’s Crew-1 flight, floating freely inside the company’s spacecraft as it heads toward the International Space Station. A plush Baby Yoda — yes, technically The Child — from The Mandalorian can be seen in live shots from inside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, bobbing about inside the cabin and bumping into the four crew members on the flight.
The inclusion of Baby Yoda is part of a long tradition in human spaceflight. The toy is what is known as the flight’s “zero G indicator,” a small object that is used to determine when the spacecraft is in orbit and has reached a microgravity environment. When the Crew Dragon separated from its Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday, the Baby Yoda rose from its perch and became a very squishy piece of debris inside the Crew Dragon.
Astronauts often choose very cute zero G indicators for their trips, adding some delight to their missions. During SpaceX’s first crewed flight in May, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley brought with them a stuffed dinosaur named Tremor, which had been picked out by their sons. Other zero G indicators of the past have included a plush Earth, nicknamed “Earthy,” which flew on SpaceX’s first uncrewed flight test of Crew Dragon. When Boeing flew its CST-100 Starliner on an uncrewed test flight in 2019, a small Snoopy in an astronaut outfit was tucked inside.
I’m sure that the Crew-1 team decided on their zero G indicator together, but perhaps they got some inspiration from a certain space reporter who may have suggested bringing the Force with them to space.
Baby Yoda has a lot of experience flying in space with its Mandalorian space dad, so The Child should be a lovely crew member. Fortunately, the Crew Dragon uses only touchscreen controls, which is good since we know how much Baby Yoda loves flipping switches. Hopefully there aren’t any eggs on the crew’s breakfast menu, though.