Apollo 17 Lunar Surface Journal Banner

The City of New Orleans

Copyright © 2002 by Eric M. Jones.
All rights reserved.
Last revised 11 September 2006.


For the wake-up on Apollo 17 lunar landing day, Houston used the John Denver version of Steve Goodman's song, "The City of New Orleans". My thanks to Clay Eals for a delightful exchange of e-mail during 2004 and 2005 while he was preparing a biography of Goodman for publication. I learned a lot as the two of us dug into the details of this little episode.

The accompanying mp3 audio clip was provided by John Stoll, ACR Senior Technician at NASA Johnson.

MP3 Audio Clip ( 9 min 13 sec )

105:45:00 (Music: City of New Orleans)

105:47:28 Allen: Good morning, America. How are you? (Long Pause)

105:47:49 Evans: This is America. That's a good way to wake up.

105:47:54 Allen: Good morning, America. How are you? You'll be gone a million miles before the mission is done.

105:48:02 Evans: (Laughter) Okay. (Long Pause)

105:48:32 Evans: Houston, America. How you reading? Okay now?

105:48:36 Allen: You're loud and clear, Ron. How are we?

105:48:40 Evans: Okay; mighty fine, Joe.

105:49:09 Schmitt: Let's hear it again, Joe.

105:49:15 Allen: Are you serious?

105:49:20 Schmitt: Well, I Just got on a headset. You never had a chance to ...

105:49:24 Allen: Stand by. Here it comes.

105:49:24 Schmitt: ... wake me up before. (Spacecraft laughter in the background; Long Pause)

[During the rest periods, only one crewman wore an earpiece. Jack has not yet had that duty but will twice on the lunar surface, once in lunar orbit after rendezvous, and once during the trip home to Earth.]
105:50:04 Allen: It's coming at you, America.

105:50:12 Evans: Okay. (Long Pause)

105:51:04 (Music: City of New Orleans)

[One can easily imagine folks scurrying around in Houston, getting the record cued and re-arranging comm circuitry to allow the replay. In the confusion, the uplink doesn't start until about 37 seconds into the song. Clay Eals calls attention to the next, ethusiastic transmission. Jack Schmitt suspects he was the responsible party.]
105:51:xx CSM Crewman: (During the first chorus) Ah-Ha! (Or, possibly 'Yah-ha!')

105:53:42 Allen: How about that?

105:53:43 Schmitt: (Genuinely pleased) Thank you, Joe That's great! We're moving on.

105:53:51 Allen: Don't you know.

105:53:53 Schmitt: (Remembering a Hank Snow song) "And a big eight-wheeler."

[Thanks to the web, it took only a few minutes to find the phrase 'big eight-wheeler' in Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On" The immediate connection to Jack's 'We're Moving on' at 105:53:43 strengthened the identification, which Jack confirmed in a 19 August 2005 e-mail to Clay, saying "I knew that one by heart."]
105:54:05 Allen: And, America, you're 10 minutes from LOS, and the spacecraft looks great.

[I do not currently have the audio for the following.]
105:5x:xx Schmitt: Okay, Joe. That's good to hear. And we're starting to move now, and we'll be ready for you when we come around.

105:5x:xx Allen: All righty.

105:5x:xx Schmitt: How long are you with us this morning?

105:5x:xx Allen: Oh, not too many more minutes.

105:5x:xx Schmitt: Hope we didn't keep you up last night.

105:5x:xx Allen: The pleasure was ours, Jack. We devoted our 8 hours to selecting your wakeup call this morning and got a little help from the news room pool on that suggestion.

105:5x:xx Schmitt: Well, that was a good suggestion. I had forgotten all about that song. That's a good one. You ought to find the 'Golden Rockets' for us some morning.

105:55:45 Allen: You'll wish you hadn't asked.