“Goooood morning, Discovery!”
With these words, the five astronauts of the space shuttle Discovery got an unusual wake-up call from actor and comedian Robin Williams. Riffing on his famous role as a radio DJ in the 1987 film Good Morning, Vietnam, Williams provided some of his trademark banter and a parody of the Green Acres TV theme song – Houston’s great, but give me that zero-G! – as part of a recording played to wake up the shuttle crew on their second day in flight.
It only takes about 90 minutes to go all the way around the planet when in low-Earth orbit, so astronauts see multiple sunrises and sunsets in a 24-hour period. To help ease sleep cycles for space-farers, and give them a reminder of home, NASA started playing astronaut wake-up songs during the Gemini program in the 1960s. Tracks are usually selected by family and friends of the crew, and have ranged from pop music to military marches to a clip from The Muppets' "Pigs in Space" skit.
Williams’ guest contribution was especially meaningful, as the 1988 shuttle mission was the first to return to flight after the space shuttle Challenger broke apart in 1986. The recording is among countless memorable contributions to popular culture made by Williams, who was found dead in his home on Monday at age 63.