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Webb Gotchu!

If you’re a fan of late night TV, you might have caught the segment on Jimmy Fallon, where an “audience member” extols the virtues of the Hubble Space Telescope (i.e. “Need an image of the Orion Nebula? Hubble gotchu!”). There followed a whole series of segments (sadly now offline), including a rap video about Hubble …and a shout-out, wherein the Hubble guy gets very upset that Hubble might be replaced by the James Webb Space, er Satellite. (Hey! Webb isn’t a replacement! It’s a successor!) We knew about this last segment, because the actor who plays the Hubble Gotchu guy came out to visit the Webb folks and the full-scale model in NYC at the World Science Fair in June.

Even better – a team from Jimmy Fallon came down from NYC to visit us at Goddard to shoot another segment for the show. As you may or may not know from my constant mentions of Webb, I work on the project – I’m the Webb’s webmaster, but I also run our social media, and do outreach and education when and where I can. As part of our outreach team, I got the chance to be there when they filmed (all day!) on Thursday, July 22nd.

I was also allowed to take pictures, but I couldn’t post anything til the segment aired! So, now that I can file a report, here is my day with the Hubble Gotchu guy!

The Hubble Gotchu guy, aka Milky J, is played by a very nice actor named Bashir Salahuddin. He’s a writer on the show as well, and seems genuinely interested in astronomy and Hubble. He and the director of the segment came down the day before to get some footage – the rest of their team arrived Thursday morning. I caught up with them and a few other NASA folks (like Rob, who will be blogging about this for Geeked on Goddard – read that blog entry for even more production details) in one of our high bay areas. When the whole team showed up, including a makeup artist, prop and costume folks, producers, producer’s assistants (hi Jed!), lighting/sound/camera people, we numbered over ten! And we attracted plenty of spectators everywhere we went! To justify my presence I helped carry stuff and fetched lunch, and generally served as a badged escort to our visitors when needed.

Our first major stop was NASCOM – this is in a secured part of Goddard where they actually control satellites (including Hubble!) and can even communicate with the space shuttle when it’s up. We spent a while there, watching the crew shoot a couple of different parts of a new rap. One involved Brent, who works on Webb, messily eating some spare ribs and arguing with Milky J about Webb vs. Hubble with his face covered in BBQ sauce. Milky J brings out a home-made space suit, and then gets the people in this control room to give him the name of someone on the project, so he can go have a word with them. While all this was going on, there were people actually trying to work! Also, I had to have my pics checked before I left to make sure I didn’t have anything that was sensitive on them! (I didn’t.)

Here are some pics from this part of the shoot. Hopefully you’ll forgive that all I had was a point and shoot that I couldn’t use a flash!

Hubble shoot

Hubble shoot

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I like this “critical coverage” shot!

Hubble shoot

The shot a couple of really cute scenes of Milky J saying farewell to the Hubble in the lobby of this building, where there is a big model of it. They got the Milky J doll out too! What he was doing was really funny and I was really glad I got to watch!

Hubble shoot

After lunch, they shot for a while in the room that leads into the centrifuge. The spacesuit was involved. I got to hold it, actually, when I helped them carry their gear to this location! They shot a couple of different things – but included a team of folks who work on Webb rapping back and forth with Milky J, and there might have been some dancing involved.

Hubble shoot

Hubble shoot

Hubble shoot

Hubble shoot

Hubble shoot

You can see people watching from the small window above! They had a sign that said “Hi Mom”!

Hubble shoot

They shot a couple more things in another area of the building – I missed most of this because I was helping to keep people from entering one of the doors so they wouldn’t interrupt the shoot, and also facilitating things so one of the producers could go somewhere he had phone signal to make some calls.

And I got a pic with Milky J too! :-)

Hubble shoot

The last thing we did was head to the TV studio so that Milky J could interview Paul Geitner, one of the project managers. Paul was a great sport, and the mock interview was *so* funny!

Hubble shoot

Hubble shoot

I know stuff had to be left out of the final video – I feel lucky to have gotten to see how one of these is made!

Without further ado, here is the segment that actually aired!

Note: As of December 2013, the two videos were put up again!

Note: As of September 2014, they are down again.
Special thanks go out to Lynn Chandler for making it all happen!

(Follow-up post.)

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