NASA and the University of Michigan showed off their special space-related bond at the Big House in Ann Arbor on Saturday. The Wolverines notably crushed Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish on their home football field. They delivered a triumphant final score of 45 to 14.
At halftime, the U of M marching band welcomed some special guests ahead of their stunning halftime show. In the musical extravaganza, MMB paid tribute to the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11’s moon landing. The milestone anniversary took place last July.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who is an Ann Arbor native, celebrated the hometown honor in a Twitter post.
Thank you @umichband for the greatest halftime show ever! 111,000 fans excited about @UMich helping @NASA return to the Moon! The conductor of “the Victors” was especially talented (me!). Watch: https://t.co/6W85yT7320 https://t.co/PsWhJHc2lw
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) October 27, 2019
Christina Koch Sends Message from Space
NASA astronaut and Grand Rapids native Christina Koch addressed the Ann Arbor crowd via satellite from aboard the ISS right before the halftime show. Koch recently made history by participating in the first all-female spacewalk.
She explained her special bond to the university in her speech. “I’m especially honored to be with you in the Big House today because my father is a graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School,” she said. “I have fond memories of watching Michigan football games with him.”
She added, “My colleagues and I send greetings and a message of peace from our orbital home. Looking out the window at our beautiful planet against the vastness of space, it is clear that we, the global citizens of Earth, are more alike than we are different. The Great Lakes, in particular, are one of the most stunning and recognizable places we see.”
Then, Koch introduced the U of M marching band’s tribute to Apollo 11. She also acknowledged the “longstanding connection between NASA and the university.”
Sensational Space-Themed Halftime Show
The Michigan Marching Band titled its stunning halftime show “We Choose to Go,” after President John F. Kennedy’s address at Rice University about America’s space effort.
They kicked off the space-themed medley with Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” During this song, part of the group formed a “rocket,” with real smoke shooting behind them as they “blasted” across the field.
Coincidentally, on the exact date (Oct. 26) 62 years ago in 1957, the MMB also marched a show forming a similar rocket blasting toward the moon. The band shared a diagram of the historic formation on Twitter.
On this exact day 62 years ago, October 26th, 1957, the MMB marched a show featuring a rocket ship headed towards the moon. Coincidentally, we have a similar formation in today’s show! See if you can spot it tonight during halftime! 👀🚀🌕 #GoBlue #TakeTheField pic.twitter.com/FDqsfXplvd
— Michigan Marching & Athletic Bands (@umichband) October 26, 2019
Other songs included “A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay, “Space Oddity” by David Bowie, and the 2013 movie theme for “Star Trek Into the Darkness.”
The MMB presented several space-related formations on the field, including the “We Choose to Go” slogan, the word “Apollo,” and two different iterations of NASA’s logo.
Michigan Engineering also tweeted photos of the band’s formations.
The @umichband halftime show “We Choose To Go” is a space-themed spectacular!! 250 engineering students made the Block M bling!!
— Michigan Engineering (@UMengineering) October 27, 2019
During the MMB closer, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stood in front of the band. He conducted a spirited rendition of the team’s fight song, “The Victor.”
Furthermore, 250 students from the College of Engineering formed the university’s signature block letter “M.”
Bridenstine’s Campus Visit
NASA maintains a close connection with college campuses across the country. Bridenstine’s fun at the football game followed a tour of the university’s moon/Mars habitat.
During his visit, the space agency leader met with leaders from U of M’s space research program. According to a Detroit Free Press report, they discussed NASA’s Artemis program lunar goal. They also talked about how universities “will play a big role in the future of space exploration.”
Furthermore, Bridenstine spoke about the students’ ideas. He noted that their educational experience would be a fit for future NASA missions.
“These bright, young minds that have new ways of thinking and new technologies and bring them to the table early in their careers as students … and are gaining experience that is ideal for a lot of the missions NASA does,” Bridenstine said.
U of M’s Stake in Future Space Exploration
Meanwhile, the University of Michigan is already thinking about the future of the U.S. space program. Dean of the College of Engineering, Alec Gallimore, reported that U of M is establishing a new Space Institute.
“Space exploration and the research it supports have shaped our world and changed lives. Some future possibilities test the limits of imagination. To realize those possibilities, I am pleased to announce the Space Institute,” Gallimore said. “It is a dream come true for me, and for many others here as we look forward to the next great advance of the space frontier. The realization of that dream will transport all of us on a voyage of discovery.”
Currently, over 250 students at the U of M are studying space exploration. According to Gallimore, 22 living and dead astronauts hail from the school’s faculty and alumni base.
“Researchers at UM have built and flown more than 35 instruments on NASA spacecraft,” he added. “Our instruments have been to every planet in the Solar System and beyond.”
Today, members of U of M’s current space program can shout a resounding “Go Blue!” as they follow those distinguished alumni on a journey to the stars.