Friday, December 28, 2012

Houston, we have a problem!

A few days ago, quite by accident, I got wind of a local event that I knew Sam would love to attend.  His birthday happens to fall on New Year's Eve.  Due to the cost of the event, we decided to give him a choice: go to an interactive reenactment of Mission Control during the Apollo 13 mission or get birthday presents and a party.  He chose Apollo 13.  He and I went tonight.  And it was a blast.

There were two types of seats available: mission control or press gallery.  In Mission Control, you are part of the action; in the press gallery,  you watch the action.  Within those two areas, seating was general admission.  We were in Mission Control.

There were a dozen or so pictures and schematics on the walls to look at.  This one was on the door explaining why drinks were not allowed in Mission Control.  It made me laugh.

We started out waiting.  At 7pm, Walter Cronkite came out and  greeted us.  He then introduced us to the astronauts, explaining that the third astronaut could not make it due to having the measles.  They asked for volunteer candidates from among the waiting audience members and chose the third astronaut from among those candidates.  While they took him back to get dressed and prepped for his part, we found our seats among the consoles.

Here's Sam getting settled into his console and meeting his neighbor, who seemed thrilled to have a kid next to him to help along.  Sam was wearing a lab coat which they passed out to about 20 people, mostly the kids and teens.  Sam chose the "Lunar Module Comm."  I was next to him with a pair of headphones patched into the astronauts.

The action started off right from the beginning.  Ken Mattingly started the show.  Ashley Hawkins came in all freaked out.  No one knew who he was.  Turned out he's replacing someone who's grandmother died or is maybe dying or something.  (actual words)  We were all told it is Mr. Kranz's birthday, and I was given the job of leading Mission Control in singing to him.  Who the heck is Mr. Kranz? Mr. Kranz showed up, I was given the cue, and I started the singing.  Mr. Hawkins wanted to do the launch sequence but was given the preflight checks, which the audience didn't respond to at first.  Those missing their cue were guided along with some fun put downs for being asleep on the job and whatnot.

Throughout the show, the action took place both up front and throughout the audience.  The cast was running all over the place talking to people and giving directions.  At one point, Sam was told to write something down.  At another, he was told to draw a picture of five engines with the middle one not working.  The cast member came back for the notes both times.  They did the same with other audience members. At one time, they passed out laminated cards telling people what to do, like "Stand up and yell ______________________," and everyone was standing up and yelling all at once.  It was crazy trying to keep up with everything going on.

Here Mr. Kranz was describing the problem we had to solve.  The lady in white behind Sam in the picture above played a huge role in coming up with the makeshift CO2 filter.  She got pulled up to the front to work out the prototype.

Cast members started arguing about the prototype.  Mr. Kranz wanted it to go to simulations.  Everyone else (there were two others just before this photo), said there wasn't time.  At one point, they all stormed out of the room.  Right after they left, Apollo 13 tried to contact Mission Control...only there were no cast members around to answer.  After a couple of tries, the lady behind us (the one who designed the filter and had been on the phone earlier with Bravo Comm explaining the filter design), yelled out, "Bravo Comm!".

This guy was apparently sitting at Bravo Comm and figured out why the lady was yelling at him.  He stood up and picked up the headset and responded to Apollo 13.  Getting his notes from their earlier phone conversation, he started telling the astronauts what to get and how to build the makeshift filter.  During this time, part of the cast returned and helped him figure out what he was suppose to do.

There was a lot more in there including some math we had to do (prealgebra stuff) and some binary code to work out, but we got them home safely.  At the end, the astronauts returned for a standing ovation and photo ops.

The astronaut second from the left is the unsuspecting audience member who got promoted to astronaut.  Pretty cool for him!  Sam loved it.  We stuck around and talked to the cast a bit.  It was a great show.

They have three more shows (December 29th and 30th, 2012) in Tacoma and then a bunch of shows in Spokane from January 9th through 20th.  If you can and are interested in space exploration, NASA, and/or the Apollo missions, this would be a great show to attend if you can.  Here's their website.

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