Behind The Scenes

ESPN’s slices of Shuttle history

With Americans reflecting on 30 years of NASA’s Space Shuttle program tied to Friday’s final flight, ESPN can reminisce about our sliver of shuttle history.

Astronauts take personal items that represent them into space and Pilot turned Commander Ken Ham twice honored ESPN by bringing us along on his journeys.

Ken and his wife and fellow NASA employee Michelle are self-described “ESPN addicts” who begin each day with Mike and Mike and end many days with SportsCenter.

Michelle called Bristol looking for some ESPN items — ones that were oh so light weight — to go with Ken to infinity and beyond.

Ken Bodreau, who has worked here longer than the shuttle has been flying, took on the challenge of making an ESPN microphone clip as light as possible. Some ESPN stickers and a “best-of” CD with a personal greeting from Mike and Mike were loaded on Discovery for the May 2008 flight.  During that mission, Ham and the crew were guests on Mike and Mike from space — fittingly as the shuttle was flying over Connecticut at the time.

Back on earth, Ham appeared in studio in 2009 with the Mikes when he visited Bristol to preview a new shuttle launch experience ESPN was creating as part of its exhibits at the city’s Imagine Nation children’s museum.

The on-board honor was repeated when Ham, the Commander of 2010’s STS-132, the second-to-last flight of Atlantis, brought ESPN back into orbit.

This time the cargo was ESPN 3D glasses, representing ESPN’s commitment to technology, as well as a photo of Ken and Michelle from the Mike and Mike set. And to top it off, Ham and crew celebrated the year of the Winter Games by filming Space Olympics for use on their favorite show.

This week Ham offered his reflections on the ESPN connection:  “Having the Mike & Mike show and ESPN along for the ride on STS-124 & STS-132 was a lot of fun.  Shuttle flights can be jam packed with effort, focus and stress.

“An opportunity to have a laugh can do wonders for the whole crew.  Filming the Space Olympics on 132 certainly supplied some great laughs as well as some great footage that formed the basis of a fun crew movie.  What could be more fun than zero-gravity man curling?”

For me, working at ESPN opens the doors to amazing experiences.

The relationship forged with the Hams led to a vacation in Florida last May with my younger son and VIP passes to witness the Atlantis launch from the Banana Creek viewing area near Cape Canaveral.

Like many, we were thrilled to be along for the ride.

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