11/2/1981 “Recording Pigs in Space for NASA space shuttle.”

After the Columbia space shuttle’s successful inaugural round trip in April 1981, NASA asked Jim if the Muppets would record wake-up calls that would play for the astronauts on the second shuttle voyage launching that November 12th. The astronauts had a great affection (and professional admiration, no doubt,) for the crew of the Swinetrek from The Muppet Show. Captain Link Hogthrob (Jim), First Mate Piggy (Frank Oz), and Dr. Julius Strangepork (Jerry Nelson) were the clear choice to do the job. With input from a group of NASA astronauts, Jerry Juhl wrote five scripts for the five day mission. The team at mission control on the ground, including the pioneer Sally K. Ride, no doubt enjoyed waking Commander Joseph Engle and Pilot Richard Truly with personal ribbing from the Swinetrek crew. In the brief bits, Piggy, Link and Strangepork managed to make some truly terrible jokes (Richard Truly!) and personally teased the orbiting crew. In reference to the fact that this was the first time in history that a spacecraft was making a return trip into outer space, when Miss Piggy suggested that Strangepork’s joke had been used before, he responded, “It doesn’t matter. So has their spacecraft!”

After the launch, Jim received an autographed commemorative photo inscribed “To Capt. Hogthrob, F.M. Piggy & Dr. Stangepork. Thanks for your help and may the Swinetrek and the Columbia cross paths again.” Jerry Juhl and his wife (and fellow Fraggle writer) Susan became friends with Sally Ride who oversaw the wake-up call program. Susan shared her memories after Ride’s passing this summer.

Jerry Juhl’s script for the first wake-up call to the Columbia crew, 1981.

Jerry Juhl’s script for the first wake-up call to the Columbia crew, 1981.

John Stevenson’s design for a different sort of space shuttle, conceived for the Starboppers project, 1983.

Rough design for the Pigs in Space spaceship, the Swinetrek.

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