I didn’t either. But there are many benefits to living in Washington, DC, and my favorite is the pomp with which many federal organizations celebrate their achievements. In honor of the 50th anniversary of JFK’s historic speech about, “sending a man to the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” NASA held a concert at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in downtown Washington. Here was the program:
The program will include Emil de Cou conducting the Space Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbie Hancock, vocals by Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura of Star Trek fame), June Lockart (of Lost in Space fame & Lassie), Buzz Aldrin, Soldier’s Chorus of the US Army Field Band, and four local high school choirs. A number of the Kennedy family members will be in attendance, including Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith who will also offer remarks.
While the program was honoring John F. Kennedy’s speech; I noticed the day May 25th, was one of the geekiest I’ve ever seen:
- 240 BC: First recorded perihelion passage of Halley’s Comet
- 1961: John F. Kennedy announces the goal to put “a man on the moon before the end of this decade and return him safely to the Earth.”
- 1966: Explorer 32 launches
- 1977: Star Wars is released in theaters
Four really geeky space things in one day? Weird. Not to mention the first blind man to reach the top of Mount Everest in 19 and the first ever ascent of the third highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga, in 1955. May the 25th might just be the geekiest day on the calendar. Events via: On This Day… app.
Throughout the program the Space Philharmonic Orchestra performed renditions of the Back to the Future theme by Alan Silvestri, the Star Trek theme by Alexander Courage as well as movements from The Planets by Holst and pieces by Puccini and Saison. While the orchestra played the giant screen above them (HD of course) showed often rare footage from the NASA space program themed with the song. Like a geeky fireworks show we watched the Mercury program evolve into the Apollo program, and with sorrow watched the disasters of Columbia, Challenger and Apollo I.
In between pieces, Nichelle Nichols (Uhura from original Star Trek) spoke about her struggle to make the space program more racially diverse; June Lockhart spoke about her work with the 1960s television show Lost In Space inspiring people to join the fields of engineering and science, and Herbie Hancock played an original piano piece and told us about his life-long dream to see a shuttle launch — realized only this February with STS-133 and the final launch of shuttle Discovery.
At the end of the program, Buzz Aldrin and Teddy Roosevelt III guest conducted two Sousa marches to the audience’s warm applause. After the show there was a private event which we were fortunate enough to gain entry to. Buzz talked at length about the current generation launch vehicle and was very outgoing and patient with our cell phone cameras; Herbie fixed one iPhone so it would take better pictures in the dim light, and Nichelle called me, “A sweetie,” which might be one of the highlights of my life.
Long story short if you live in the DC metro area be sure and check out the events in DC as often they are free and as we are a city of wonks* our events tend toward the geektastic.
* wonk, noun: a person overly preoccupied with details or procedures in a specialized field.
And finally, a video of Buzz Aldrin conducting the heretofore unknown, Space Philharmonic Orchestra:
Check out the video for John F. Kennedy’s speech regarding the need to send a man to the moon on the NASA website: