The Near-Inclusion of John Denver on NASA’s Inaugural Space Shuttle Mission


The renowned American folk and country musician, John Denver, was known not only for his impressive music career but also for his insatiable fascination with space exploration. Denver, born in 1943 in Roswell, New Mexico, a town infamous for its UFO sightings and conspiracy theories, developed a strong interest in space from a young age. His passion for space travel was further fueled by his father, a celebrated US Air Force pilot.

During his illustrious career in music, Denver crafted over 200 tracks and gained a reputation as one of America’s favourite songwriters. He also made a name for himself as an outspoken political activist, frequently criticizing the Reagan administration and advocating for the Democratic Party. Despite his successful music career, Denver’s fascination with space travel never wavered.

In the mid-1980s, Denver was invited by NASA to join the National Space Society board of governors and contribute to the development of the ‘Citizens in Space’ programme. This initiative aimed to send ordinary citizens into space, a concept that Denver was eager to participate in. After undergoing several medical tests, Denver was considered for the programme. However, he was eventually passed over, with public school teacher Christa McAuliffe being chosen instead.

Denver’s initial disappointment turned into relief when the space shuttle Challenger, scheduled to transport McAuliffe and other crew members into space, exploded shortly after takeoff in 1986. The tragic event resulted in the deaths of all seven crew members and led to the termination of NASA’s ‘Citizens in Space’ programme.

Inspired by the Challenger disaster, Denver wrote the song ‘Flying For Me’ to express his longing for space travel and his admiration for McAuliffe. Despite the tragedy, Denver’s dream of traveling to space persisted. He even considered joining the Soviet space programme, but was discouraged by the hefty $20 million cost.

In summary, John Denver was more than just a beloved musician; he was also a passionate space enthusiast. His involvement with NASA’s ‘Citizens in Space’ programme was a testament to his dedication to space exploration, a passion that remained with him until the end of his life.



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