Apollo 13: Mission Control

Watching Apollo 13 take off.

Lift off! I just spent my evening reliving the Apollo 13 mission and it wasn’t through a movie, TV show or book. It was through a new, interactive show called Apollo 13: Mission Control. As kids, we all dream of becoming astronauts and traveling to outer space when we grow up. Tonight was probably the closest I will ever get, and it was amazing! I went into Apollo 13: Mission Control thinking it would be “okay” to “pretty good,” but now I’m looking at my calendar to try to catch another show before it leaves town.

For those non-history buffs (such as myself), Apollo 13 was the third U.S. mission planned to land on the moon. The craft launched on April 11, 1970. Plans to land on the moon were quickly aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days after take-off.  The crew faced several problems trying to get back to Earth. Tonight, as an audience member of Apollo 13: Mission Control, I was part of the mission control team that sent the space shuttle into space, and then helped it and the crew make it back home safely.

Apollo 13: Mission Control started off the show by looking for a third astronaut to go on the space ship. They called up three audience members and “auditioned” them.  At tonight’s show, they selected my dear friend, Chris (from Captain and Clark) to be the third astronaut. He disappeared to get ready for lift off, while the rest of the audience made its way into mission control.

It’s hard to explain exactly what happens next at Apollo 13: Mission Control other than it’s a full-blown, real life experience. With the help of a few actors leading the way, the audience relives what it was like to be part of the mission control team that brought back Apollo 13 and its crew back to Earth. Take a look at this video to get a better idea of what it’s like:

Apollo 13: Mission Control

My workstation in mission control.

Each member in mission control has a different job title and responsibility, which is assigned to you based on where you sit. My job was the FIDO (Flight Dynamics Officer) Monitor. That means I was responsible for the flight path of Apollo 13. There are two sections for the audience to sit. The middle section has long desks with consoles on top. This is where I sat and tickets cost $52.50. There is also a few rows surrounding the middle section without the consoles. Tickets for this section are $37.50. I would highly suggested spending a few extra bucks to sit in the middle section. It is where all the action happens and it’s well worth it.

Everyone around me in the audience had a different job. Some people were on the phone, others had to take notes, while others were delivering messages, solving problems or developing protocol. I had to pass around packets to everyone, help a small team figure out where the space shuttle should land back on Earth, and deliver messages to the right people. Sometimes it felt like total chaos because people were running around all over the place.

Apollo 13: Mission Control

Two 8-year-old boys help bring Apollo 13 safely home.

In between the chaos of Apollo 13: Mission Control, the actors (who were also leading the chaos) had great dialogue between each other. People would quiet down and listen to every word they were saying. I am told the writers looked at transcripts of the actual event to help with the script.  At times it was really funny and other times it was exciting. There was also a lot of suspense and urgency. Periodically, we’d check in with the astronauts on a big TV screen. They were located backstage in a space shuttle which had video cameras located throughout the craft. An actor playing Walter Cronkite would even pop up on the screen to give us the latest “news briefing” on the shuttle mission.  In the end, we were able to safely bring the three astronauts home from outer space.

After the show, I had the opportunity to go back stage and see the space shuttle in person and speak to the actors and creators of Apollo 13: Mission Control. The writers are actually all from New Zealand and have toured the show in New Zealand and Australia for the last four years. It has been very well received overseas, so they thought it was time to bring it to the states. Spokane, Washington is only the second city in the United States to get the show, so I feel pretty lucky to get such an exclusive sneak peek at this new type of show.

What I enjoyed most about Apollo 13: Mission Control was how many different types of people were there. Little kids, older people, and everyone in between made up the audience — or should I say – master control.  Everyone was involved and having a great time! I also really enjoyed learning more about the Apollo 13 mission. I’d recommend Apollo 13: Mission Control to everyone. If you live near Spokane, there are still many shows scheduled over the next couple of weeks. Check it out!

Have you seen Apollo 13: Mission Control (or a similar show) before? What did you think? We would love to hear from you! Leave a message below or connect with us on TwitterFacebookGoogle+ and YouTube. Don’t forget to also scope out http://catchthewinds.com for more on things to do and see in the Pacific Northwest and all over the globe!