Glasgow. Show day.
I've noted before that we have been working for some time on a new video piece for a new song to go in the show at some point. The idea is to make something that echoes the live link we did from Barcelona to the International Space Station and to add another thread to the rather abstract themes of 'space' and 'time' which are amongst the trains of thought running through the show. The tour has developed a kind of 'pen-pals' relationship with the space station since our first contact in Barcelona and this has been continuing in the background. The family of Frank DeWinne, who is one of the astronauts on board, came to a show and met everyone. They're Flemish, as is Frank, and if there's one thing we have on the U2360 tour it's Flemish Belgians. Consequently, much bonding occurred and I think half the video crew are now emailing with explorers of one sort or another.
Meanwhile, back with the show, via more formal channels we had been offered the opportunity of another live link with the ISS (space station) though not one which would coincide with a U2 performance time. Consequently, our video director, Tom, wrote a small 'treatment' for things we might invite the astronauts to film on board for us to use. I won't spoil the outcome by going into detail, but we were essentially being offered an opportunity to direct a short video shoot in a space capsule orbiting the earth. Not your normal Tuesday morning then.
The practical outworking of this was that, prior to our day trip to Scotland, Tom, Shan and I gathered in a hotel room at the Hotel Fabulous to place a conference call to NASA in Houston. Shan has been our tour's key link person in all dealings with NASA and I was rather amused at the mixture of formal process and human camaraderie which infused the initial conversation. A woman's voice came on the line, 'U2 this is Houston', then, from our end 'Houston this is Shan with U2'. Houston: 'Oh, Hi Shan, this is Stephanie, how ARE you?' U2: 'Just fine Stephanie, we're in London today, how are you?' Houston: 'Oh, just fine, how's the weather there,' etc., etc.
This was to be a many faceted conference call, including (I think) some of the bosses from NASA to make sure all was above board, legal, decent, honest and truthful. We could only hear Stephanie, but she could hear everybody, so was relaying information to us. She told us that the astronauts had set up a camera in one particular module of the ISS. She thought it would be in the Harmony module, though they had also mentioned the possibility of shooting in the Destiny Laboratory (are we still on a rock tour?, we're thinking). By the way, if you want to look up the ISS, and see the astronauts we're in contact with, go to NASA.gov. This is mission number 19.
Tom talked over a few details with Stephanie which may not have been quite clear from the preceding email correspondence. We appreciated very much that these people are scientists and we were a highly unusual intrusion into their day, but they responded with firm politeness beneath which seemed to lie a real willingness to participate in this extraordinary collaboration.
'Frank is coming into view. He's typing on a laptop, there's a package next to him, the package is floating and it looks really cool. He's approaching the camera and now reciting his lines.
'Roman just finished his piece... Bob Thirsk is entering with a drink bag... he's up to the camera... Gennady just entered doing a summersault in zero gravity holding... I'm not sure what that is... he's floated upside down out of the shot. Next is Mike Barratt who's holding a big camera... Tim Kopra is floating in... he came feet first and has done a summersault... he's reaching up to the ceiling...
'We're going to ask Bob, Gennady and Mike to do a little more.
'They've been doing a little goofing around - one of the crew members just took a swing at the camera with a big crescent wrench.
'We're going to take a short pause to re-establish communication.'
'U2 this is NASA...'
'We're back with com, so stand by...'
'Gennady did a perfect take second time...'
'Mike Barrett is adjusting some things, playing with a laptop...'
'Frank's on the ceiling...'
'Oh and in case you're wondering, the space station is over the Great Lakes right now...'