Space Moose has made his public debut. This fictional cartoon character is the brainchild of Doug Whitehead, an artist and author from the Monark Springs community.

Space Moose has made his public debut. This fictional cartoon character is the brainchild of Doug Whitehead, an artist and author from the Monark Springs community.

Space Moose has already burst onto the local scene in the form of childrens' books, but now this futuristic astronaut is animated in a short video. In his film debut, Space Moose tours several national parks in his trusty rocket ship, including the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park, where he met a ranger and saw Old Faithful erupt.

Made of clay, Space Moose was animated for his video appearance in more than 5,000 photographs, which allow him to do such things as travel in his rocket, cast a fishing line, and even peel a banana.

Although Space Moose made his debut in Neosho on Thursday night at the May meeting of the Friends of the Neosho National Fish Hatchery, he has quickly reached far beyond Newton County.

His video has been entered in a national film contest in Indianapolis, and he has flown his space ship all the way around the world to compete in Australia. In both competitions, his video has made the first cut in the judging. The results from Australia will be announced in June and those from Indiana will come in October.

Space Moose is already well known by the hatchery Friends as his books are sold in the children's section of the bookstore, and his creator is a volunteer clerk there each Friday morning. Seeing an animated Space Moose was a thrill for the Friends and they gave him and his film debut a big round of applause at the meeting.

In the video, titled "If I Where a Space Moose," his message of visiting national parks is a timely subject as the National Park Service is celebrating its 100th birthday. The National Park Service was created by an Act of Congress on August 25, 1916.

The first national park, Yellowstone, was established in 1872. When the National Park Service was created in 1916, it was charged with caring for Yellowstone and more than 400 other units, including the George Washington Carver National Monument located in Newton County.

Now that Space Moose has moved out of books and has a spaceship that can take him anywhere, everyone needs to keep a watch out for a tiny rocket with a moose on board. You just never know where he will show up next.