Space Center Houston's hugely successful inaugural gala raised more than $1 million for the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation Inc. Friday night. The Galaxy Gala was a stellar evening led by chairs Alice and Keith Mosing.
The pre-gala area showed historic films about the space program and displayed artifacts from Space Center Houston, an educationally focused, nonprofit space museum. Included in the exhibit were space suits, items brought back from several space missions and the presidential podium from which John Kennedy made his historic speech announcing the goal of landing a man on the moon.
As guests entered the main dining area, huge screens from corner to corner gave them the sensation of floating in zero gravity. Countdown to start the evening filled the room with the roar of the blast off from a rocket launch. Sending everyone into orbit, a message from astronaut Terry Virts Jr., currently aboard the International Space Station, greeted the 700 guests. A special treat was Gena and Chuck Norris' introduction of the gala co-chairs.
President and CEO of Space Center Houston Richard Allen Jr. applauded the leadership for the evening and the impact the funds will have on the nonprofit's largest and most ambitious exhibit ever built. Opening later this year, the new exhibit, "Independence Plaza," will feature a high-fidelity space shuttle replica, the Independence, mounted on the historic NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft. Only at Space Center Houston will visitors be able to go inside both the shuttle and the airplane. Most importantly, the shuttle complex and surrounding exhibits will expand and enhance Space Center Houston's award-winning educational programs that motivate students to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
The evening featured a top-flight keynote panel including astronaut Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go into space and director of NASA Johnson Space Center; astronaut Gene Cernan, who flew three historic space missions and was the last man to walk on the moon; and astronaut Mark Kelly, shuttle commander and husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona. Award-winning science journalist and former CNN correspondent and anchor Miles O'Brien was master of ceremonies and led the panel discussion. The audience gave a standing ovation to these distinguished speakers.
Guests filled the dance floor and grooved under the stars to the sounds of the Lt. Dan Band led by award-winning actor Gary Sinise, who starred in the film "Apollo 13." People stood in front of the stage and sang while cell phone cameras flashed throughout the night to capture the fun.
Star-studded guests included Susie and Pat Cunningham, Betsy and Fred Griffin, Kim and Dan Tutcher, Jeanne and Richard Filip, Martha and James Madget, Paula McCann Harris, Cyndy and Thomas Roberts, Leslie and Adam Schneider, Mo and Ric Campo, Bobbie and John Nau, John Poindexter, Winell Herron, Ileana and Michael Trevino, Debbie and John Daugherty, Yvonne and Walter Johnson, Kyla and Ron Kapche, Trini Mendenhall and Jo Lynn and Gregg Falgout.