Space is a serious endeavor. It is a dangerous and no-fail environment. Even just one error can lead to a catastrophic end as we saw twice in the Space Shuttle program. Against that backdrop, there is still room for moments of levity. Some of the more memorable moments of NASA are a witty comment by an astronaut or a catch phrase said by a mission controller at just the right moment for comedic relief. That’s why the the tradition of a wake up call is so unique.
Did Wake ups Start With the Space Shuttle?
Nope! A wake up call to astronauts is a time-honored tradition at NASA. Just like you and I, the first moments after waking up can set the tone for the day. NASA’s Mission Controllers ensured that they provided the astronauts with the best opportunity for a great day. While the wakeup call first started during the Gemini program and continued throughout Apollo and Skylab, it truly shined during the Space Shuttle era. The morning would typically consist of a relevant song for the day. Occasionally though, a special guest would join in the fun. Here are our top 5 wakeups:
5.) “Good Morning Space Shuttle!”
Back on September 30, 1988, actor Robin Williams woke up the crew from STS-26. He did a riff on his classic “Good Morning Vietnam” with a “Good Morning Discovery!” His wakeup came on the first day of a mission to deliver a satellite that would later be used for communications between the ground and various satellites to include the ISS. While there were other cases of celebrities offer a wake up and word of encouragement, the Robin Williams wake up was one of the more iconic greetings. In the video, you’ll see the mission controllers giggled like school kids as Robin Williams delighted crowds both on terra firma and in space.
4.) Capt Kirk Wakes The Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle might be decidedly low tech for Captain Kirk. But he graciously woke the space shuttle astronauts on Discovery’s final flight before retirement. In the video, you’ll hear William Shatner great the astronauts as the theme of Star Trek blares in the background.
3.) Reveille on the Shuttle
It’s an oldie but a goodie. On the last day of STS-1, the first Space Shuttle flight, Astronauts Young and Crippen awoke to a mashup of the famous military bugle call, birds chirping, and Looney Tunes. In retrospect, the first mission was much simpler than later missions. There was no celebrity wakeup or top 40 song to great the astronauts as they awoke from their slumber. Yet it showed the NASA’s sense of humor and set a high standard for crew wake ups on the other 100+ Space Shuttle missions.
2.) Sir Paul from the Beatles Awakens The Final Crew
Paul McCartney, one of the most famous rock and roll artists of all time, awoke the crew with a rendition of “Good Day Sunshine.” He wished the crew good luck on their final mission to the delight of the crew. The Good Day Sunshine song was played to wake up the crews on three space shuttle missions. NASA states that Beatles’ songs were used over a dozen times to wake up shuttle crews!
1.) Rocket Man!
STS-135 was an especially memorable flight for wake up songs. Sir Elton John wake the crew of the final Space Shuttle mission with a rendition of ‘Rocket Man’. The song is one of John’s greatest hits, sharing the story of an astronaut’s triumphs and challenges of being so far away from everything he is familiar with and loves. At the end of the song, Elton gave a classy sendoff as he gave thanks to both the astronauts and all the people who supported the shuttle program over the previous thirty years.
Bonus points: What was the song used for the space shuttle program’s last day in space?