|| - 02.20.2007
|My phone rang twice that morning, with the same message from two different areas of the country. One call was from my brother in Phoenix. “I think I just heard your song on CNN. Is that possible?” An hour or so later, my Mom in Washington D.C. called with similar news. Someone had come into her store saying they heard one of my songs on CNN. “Do you know anything about that?” she asked.
I instantly jumped into research mode, and found myself looking up information on NASA.ORG to find out what was going on. The news story was about the Space Shuttle Discovery mission. What could the Space Shuttle possibly have to do with my music?
What I found out was, and still is, the coolest thing that has ever happened with one of my songs.
On November 1, 1998, the fourth morning of the Space Shuttle Discovery Mission STS-95, after the allotted hours of radio silence to allow the astronauts to sleep, NASA’s Mission Control Center chose to fill the Space Shuttle Discovery with my voice, singing “Hallelujahs” as their wake-up call for the astronauts.
I, space cadet Rice, yet tethered to planet earth, was singing in outer space!
NASA’s official STS-95 Mission Control Center Status Report #07 (7 a.m. CST) for that morning reads: "Chris Rice's 'Hallelujahs' awakened Discovery's seven astronauts at 6:35 a.m. Central time today to begin their fourth day of science activities. The song was requested by pilot Steve Lindsey's wife, Diane."
So, Steve Lindsey, the pilot of the Space Shuttle Discovery, was waking up to these words: “Oh cratered moon, and sparrows’ wings / Oh thunder’s boom and Saturn’s rings / Unveil our Father as you sing / And my soul wells up with Hallelujahs!”
There was another unique traveler waking to these lyrics aboard Discovery that morning. At 77 years of age, American hero and United States Senator John Glenn of Ohio, the oldest person to ever be in space, was rising to fulfill his payload specialist duties for the day.
This, however, was not Senator Glenn’s first trip into space. In February 1962, he was the first American ever to orbit the Earth in space.
Wait, there was something else going on in 1962…oh yeah, I was born in 1962. June of 1962. So while astronaut John Glenn was busy hurling through outer space around our planet for the first time, I was busy orbiting my umbilical cord through inner amniotic fluid in my Mom’s tummy!
Maybe that’s why I’ve always been so intrigued by space exploration. Maybe that’s why the only plastic model I ever remember gluing together as a kid was of the Apollo-Soyuz spacecrafts! Maybe that’s why my favorite fieldtrips in elementary school were to the Air and Space Museum. Maybe that’s why my songs so often mention the stars, the sun, the moon, and Saturn.
I just never imagined one of those songs would end up waking the astronauts to a beautiful view of planet earth through the small Space Shuttle window one morning.
The Mission Control Center Shuttle Status report concludes with these words: "Discovery is orbiting the Earth every 95 minutes at an altitude of about 340 statute miles with all systems operating in excellent condition."
That's traveling at a speed of over 17,000 miles per hour!
Thanks to Pilot Steve Lindsey and all the astronauts who carry our dreams further and faster than the rest of us will ever venture. Thank you Senator Glenn for your service to our nation in the Senate and in our space program.
And thanks NASA for playing my song.