Shaun the Sheep returns to Earth after epic mission to the moon

Shaun the Sheep has returned to Earth after an epic mission to the moon.

A model of the animated character joined the European Space Agency as an astronaut on NASA's Artemis 1 mission last year.

Shaun covered 1.4 million miles on his space travels before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on 11 December.

Dr David Parker, the European Space Agency's director for human and robotic exploration, remarked on Shaun's journey: "He is our pioneer - the first ESA astronaut to go to the moon and back again.

"Shaun is blazing a trail because we're going to have more ESA astronauts flying to the moon over the next decade.

"He’s got a lot to teach us about the ambition, talent and diversity needed for Europe’s exploration of space."

Shaun was given a certificate from NASA to congratulate him on completing the mission Credit: ESA/Aardman

Shaun the Sheep, Aardman’s family favourite TV series, is broadcast in 170 countries and territories around the world.

This was an exciting project for the animators who are delighted to have teamed up with the European Space Agency.

Peter Lord, Aardman's co-founder and creative director said: “I can hardly believe I’m writing this, but Shaun the Sheep has just returned from a trip around the Moon!

"Everyone at the Aardman studio is bursting with pride as we celebrate his historic journey from Mossy Bottom Farm to the vast emptiness of space. And we’re equally delighted and proud of our partnership with ESA, who trained him for the flight and made the whole adventure possible.

"No sheep has ever seen so much or travelled so far.”

Rosemary Coogan is about to embark on her intensive astronaut training

In preparation for this flight, Shaun began a programme of astronaut training. Dr Rosemary Coogan is about the embark on the 14-month training schedule and said seeing Shaun do it so well, is an inspiration.

Dr Coogan said: "We've seen some of the activities and basic training through Shaun's blogs. But essentially it's a huge variety of activities from classroom-based activities like space law, human biology, how that's different in low-gravity environments.

"To much more practical activities such as survival training, open water training and training underwater to see what it would be like to navigate around the space station."

To mark Shaun's successful return to earth, he was presented with a special certificate from Nasa. Dr Parker also unveiled his official ESA astronaut photo studio.

It's mission accomplished for Shaun the Sheep - and although it might be a small step for humans, it's a giant leap for lambkind.