Spaceflight Set the Stage for a Story by Sir Paul
A sea of thousands of concert-goers threw its hands high, clapped and cheered while many chimed in with Sir Paul McCartney. On stage, a story began to unfold. It was a story of human pursuit and success, and spaceflight was at the heart of it.
Three stadium-sized screens unveiled a machine of marvels and its courageous crew of seven blasting into space. McCartney belted the words to the Beatles' tune "Good Day Sunshine," as a tribute to the most recent shuttle mission.
Discovery and the crew of STS-114 left Earth in July and returned in August, on a mission to return the vehicle to space on a journey of exploration.
On their last day in space, Aug. 9 -- a predicted day of sunshine and clear skies -- crewmembers Collins, Kelly, Camarda, Lawrence, Robinson, Thomas and Noguchi were roused with the popular Beatles' song. The wake-up was followed with a flawless landing.
Upon hearing the news while in England that his music had traveled hundreds of miles into space, McCartney drummed up an idea, spurred by his wife, to share the story set in space on stage.
"We hit a chord with American audiences," McCartney said. "The reaction to [the on-stage tribute] has been fantastic."
McCartney and his crew took the story on the road, telling it in song and testimony to full concerts across the nation during his 11-week "US" tour.
The never-ending story of spaceflight was told again in unique fashion during his concert held in Anaheim, Calif.
More than 15,000 people joined McCartney in a first-ever live wakeup to the two-man crew on station. Flying 220 miles above the Earth, Astronaut Bill McArthur and Russian Cosmonaut Valery Tokarev were treated to the stellar wakeup song and "English Tea" of McCartney’s latest album.
Real time video and audio of the Exp. 12 crew were transmitted to screen onto McCartney's stage. The live linkup was met with a roar of celebration from the concert crowd.
"I thought, 'wow, they really are in space,'" McCartney said. "I told the audience 'I think I need about 20 minutes to go have a lie down.' What do you do after that? We haven’t stopped talking about it since."
On McCartney’s tour stop in Houston, home of the STS-114 crew, the crewmembers made an entry on stage during the tribute number. When the story was told in Houston, McCartney said the story of accomplishment was felt and was an emotional moment for all involved.
The tradition of sending wakeup music into space has long boosted spirits of those living afar from their loved ones.
"Music is a great help because it sort of grounds you, and it gives you memories," McCartney said. "I can only imagine what it's like to be up there looking back on Earth. I can imagine for the space crew when you’re out there for such a long time and missing home that it would be very good to get a reminder that will take you back."
Though the humans that have traveled and lived for as long as six months at a time in space miss their home planet and their loved ones, it is the necessity and the desire to understand the world in which we live, that drives them beyond.
"There’s some deep basic instinct in humans to explore," McCartney said. "It's been happening since the dawn of time. There’s a deep urge in us to find out what's out there."
NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston