After the Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986, in an effort to raise the spirits of the astronauts, technicians, crew, etc., Dan Brandenstein, Chief of the Astronaut Office, suggested that they hold a party. Brewster Shaw then approached Hoot Gibson, who he had performed a few songs with at astronaut parties, with the idea of forming a four-piece group to play at this party.
The Original Band
Brewster Shaw, rhythm guitar and vocals, is a veteran of three Space Shuttle missions and has logged 533 hours of space flight. He was pilot of Space Shuttle Columbia in November 1983, commander of Space Shuttle Atlantis in November 1985, and commander of Columbia in August 1989.
Hoot Gibson, lead guitar and vocals, Gibson flew five missions: STS-41-B in 1984, STS-61-C in 1986, STS-27 in 1988, STS-47 in 1992, and STS-71 in 1995. Gibson served as Chief of the Astronaut Office (December 1992 to September 1994) and as Deputy Director, Flight Crew Operations (March–November 1996).
George “Pinky” Nelson, bass guitar, a veteran of three space flights, Nelson served aboard STS-41-C in 1984, STS-61C in 1986, and STS-26 in 1988. He has logged a total of 411 hours in space, including 10 hours of EVA flight time.
Jim Wetherbee, drums, piloted mission STS-32 in 1990 and commanded missions STS-52 (1992), STS-63 (1995), STS-86 (1997), STS-102 (2001), and STS-113 (2002). The final three missions were dockings with Mir and the International Space Station; STS-113 was the last Space Shuttle mission before the Columbia disaster.
The band was well-liked and soon after the party added a keyboard player. They were asked to play weddings, fajita festivals, chili cook-offs, and hotel events like Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. They also performed live on Good Morning America. In Gibson’s last year with the group, Max Q was the warm-up band for Cheap Trick on their tour which came through Houston.
Steve Hawley was that keyboard player. He logged a total of 770 hours and 27 minutes in five space flights. He served as a Mission Specialist on STS-41D in 1984, STS-61C in 1986, STS-31 in 1990, STS-82 in 1997, and STS-93 in 1999. Hawley was the last member of NASA Astronaut Group 8 to make a space flight.
The name Max Q is a rocketry term. The max q condition is the point when an aerospace vehicle’s atmospheric flight reaches maximum dynamic pressure. This is a significant factor in the design of such vehicles because the aerodynamic structural load on them is proportional to dynamic pressure. This may impose limits on the vehicle’s flight envelope.
The band plays songs like “Take It Easy” by the Eagles. The Doobie Brothers’ “Listen to the Music.” Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”
An all-astronaut band was a novelty but they have kept it up ever since those beginnings. They now have a rotating line-up due to flight crew assignments, training, and the occasional retirement.
- Ricky Arnold – rhythm guitar
- Dan Burbank – lead vocals and guitar
- Tracy “TC” Caldwell Dyson – lead vocals
- Ken “Taco” Cockrell – keyboards and background vocals
- Chris Ferguson – drums
- Drew Feustel – lead vocals and lead guitar
- Kevin A. Ford – drums
- Chris A. Hadfield – lead vocals and bass guitar
- Greg “Box” Johnson – keyboards and background vocals
- Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger – lead vocals
- Steve “Stevie Ray” Robinson – lead guitar
- Carl Walz – lead vocals
- Susan Helms – lead vocals and keyboards (after Hawley left)
- Kevin “Chili” Chilton – lead vocals and guitar (after Shaw left)
- Pierre Thuot – bass guitar (after Nelson left)
- Steven A. Hawley – keyboards (the original keyboard player)