Big Bird, the giant yellow-feathered Sesame Street character, was offered a place on the doomed Challenger space shuttle mission in 1986 – and only withdrew because the costume would not fit.
Caroll Spinney, the man who played Big Bird for 45 years, has made the extraordinary revelation in a new documentary about the Jim Henson creation.
Spinney reveals in the film I Am Big Bird that he was initially chosen to make the mission, complete with full yellow costume, as part of a Nasa initiative to encourage children to show more interest in space travel.
However it eventually proved impossible to send the 8-foot character into orbit.
According to the documentary, Spinney’s place was given to a teacher, Christa McAuliffe, who was due to communicate with students from space.
However the spacecraft broke up shortly after take off in January 1986 and all the astronauts died.
Spinney has also revealed that the cast and crew of Sesame Street stopped filming to watch the launch.
“I couldn’t believe how horrible that was and we were grieving for the pilots and the teacher, for their families and them losing their life like that,” he said in an interview with Canada’s CBS News to promote the film.
In the interview Spinney also reveals that the accent of another of his characters, Oscar the Grouch, was based on that of the cab driver who dropped Spinney off at the television studios.