Though 2020 is a year to forget for every human being; it marks important milestones, highlighting our efforts and progress through the decades — the most notable being the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the subsequent founding of the United Nations. Another anniversary worth mentioning is the 50th anniversary of Omega receiving the prestigious Silver Snoopy Award from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
Grab your coffee, this is the story of how Omega, Snoopy and NASA became best friends.
Snoopy, along with owner Charlie Brown and friends, were brought to life from Charles M. Schulz’s imagination in October 1950. The syndication of the comic strip in newspapers saw it named Peanuts though Schulz was not a fan of it. Since then, Peanuts has become one of the most influential and popular comic strips alongside Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side and Garfield.
At the dawn of the space race during the Apollo missions in the 1960s, NASA and Schulz collaborated for comic strips depicting Snoopy on the moon to capture public excitement about the nation’s space achievements.
As NASA prepared for the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, Apollo 10 was tasked with surveying the moon’s surface around its landing site. The Apollo 10 command and lunar module were nicknamed “Charlie Brown” and “Snoopy,” respectively.
Astronaut John W. Young was photographed holding up a picture of Snoopy during the Apollo 10 mission.
Despite the feel-good relationship between NASA and Snoopy, the relationship took a stoic turn on the back of the Apollo 1 tragedy in 1967. A fire in the command module killed three astronauts, which later marked the inauguration of the Silver Snoopy Award in 1968 meant to address the disconnect between internal departments, actual astronauts and their mission.
Snoopy’s task could not be overstated, acting as a safety watchdog (no pun intended) for NASA’s safety program and also representing total mission success, while keeping things light in serious situations.
The Silver Snoopy Award would be presented personally to NASA employees and contractors by NASA astronauts for outstanding achievements related to human flight safety or mission success. Only 1% of eligible recipients are awarded the 925 sterling silver pin and certificate, proving how special the award is.
Of the numerous recipients of the award, Swiss watchmakers Omega was one of them.
The relationship between NASA and Omega dates back to 1964 when the agency began testing wristwatches for its flight missions, recommended by NASA astronaut Donald K. “Deke” Slayton and NASA engineer James H. Ragan.
Omega’s Speedmaster passed the arduous test regime and was certified for all manned space missions and Extravehicular Activity on 1 March 1965.
NASA would later issue the Omega Speedmaster as part of an astronaut’s gear, the most notable being Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as the first watch on the moon.
Omega was later awarded the Silver Snoopy Award on 5 October 1970 in recognition of its crucial role that the Speedmaster chronograph played during the Apollo 13 mission.
A critical failure to one of the spacecraft’s oxygen tanks meant the mission had to be aborted. Astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise had to pilot a powered-down lunar module to return to Earth. The crew relied on the only functioning timing device onboard, a Speedmaster to perform two crucial operations for their re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Omega was later presented the Silver Snoopy Award by astronaut Thomas P. Stafford, Commander of Apollo 10 and a Manned Flight Awareness certificate signed by the crew of Apollo 13, including James Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise on 5 October 1970 which read:
“For dedication, professionalism and outstanding contributions in support of the First United States Manned Lunar Landing Project Apollo. The NASA Astronauts team recognizes the achievements of OMEGA Watch Company Switzerland.”
To mark the momentous occasion, Omega released the Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary.
Of course, Snoopy plays a prominent role within the timepiece as an embossed silver medallion on the blue subdial at 9 o’clock, wearing his famous spacesuit in the exact style of the silver pin.
The watch dial itself is also silver and laser-engraved with Ag925. It includes two more blue subdials, as well as blue PVD angle-shaped hour markers and hands.
On the case back is where the fun begins. The famed beagle can be seen “piloting” a Command and Service Module (CMS). Engaging the chronograph sees Snoopy begin his trip around the moon, disappearing behind the mysterious side of the moon before reappearing later. The Earth disc, connected to the small seconds hand on the dial side rotates once every minute.
Precision of the movement is guaranteed by Omega’s trusty Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 3861.
If you’ve finished reading this story about Omega, Snoopy and Nasa and are bored, listless or sick of doing your job, click here to catch up with our October 2020 issue!