With real life NASA astronauts, a Hollywood astronaut and a load of dazzling outer-space decor setting the stage, one would have expected Space Center Houston's inaugural gala to be a success. But only "Galaxy Gala" insiders knew that the bottom line for this first-time event would surpass $1 million.
Applause, applause for chairs Alice and Keith Mosing, who got down in the fundraising trenches, wrote a big check themselves and worked a near-miracle in this era of slumping oil prices. Applause also to their brethren in Order of St. Hubertus, who ponied up generously as did the engineering firm Jacobs, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
The out-of-this-world experience began during the reception when the 700 guests at the Hilton Americas-Houston explored exhibits from the non-profit space museum including authentic space suits and items brought back from space missions. The ballroom itself was transformed by a Memorable Event into a galaxy setting with outer space videos and shimmering decor.
There were lots of entertaining elements to this evening including the star power of Gena and Chuck Walker, Texas Ranger Norris, who introduced the chairs, and the literal star power of astronaut Terry Virts Jr., who greeted the crowd from aboard the International Space Station.
The space age theme continued with the evening's entertainment — Lt. Dan Band featuring guitarist and actor Gary Sinise (Apollo 13). Yes, he was good and the dance floor was quickly packed.
Former CNN correspondent Miles O'Brien served as emcee and conducted a Q&A with astronauts Gene Cernan, Mark Kelly and Ellen Ochoa, who compared notes on their missions and today's space program. Discussing the importance of the space program and the space museum, Cernan noted, "Today's dreamers are the doers of tomorrow and god knows we need more doers." No worry there as Ochoa told the gathering that 6,300 had applied for the latest opening for only eight astronauts.
Discussing the future of the program, Kelly said, "I really believe that the first person to walk on Mars is alive today."
The space age theme continued with the evening's entertainment — Lt. Dan Band featuring guitarist and actor Gary Sinise (Apollo 13). Yes, he was good and the dance floor was quickly packed. (The band is named after the character Lieutenant Dan Taylor, whom Sinise portrayed in the film Forrest Gump.)
The party crowd included Space Center Houston president and CEO Richard Allen Jr., Susie and Pat Cunningham, Bobbie and John Nau, John Poindexter, Kim and Dan Tutcher, Betsy and Fred Griffin, Debbie and John Daugherty, Trini Mendenhall, Winell Herron, Martha Adger and James Madget, Cyndy Garza-Roberts and Thomas Roberts and the duo responsible for pulling the party together — event producers Ellie Francisco and Niki Smith.