Following on from my virtual trip to the Arctic the previous day with My Love Lies Frozen In The Ice, a journey to an even more exciting region of our universe beckoned in the form of How I Hacked My Way Into Space. If I mention the name Tim Peake you’ll probably know who I’m referring to; but Jon Spooner probably not so much. Yet the tale that is told in this piece links together the two men in a true life story which emphasises the “reach for the stars” quality that they shared, even if it was only the former that made it onto the front page of our daily newspapers.
Back in 2010 Spooner “accidentally” (it says on his website) founded his own space agency – as you do. Known as UNSA (Unlimited Space Agency) and operating out of a mobile shed it became a way to enthuse young people about all things astronomical through giving talks, devising plays and interviewing scientists and technicians. How I Hacked My Way Into Space has become a central piece of work and its quirky and engaging narrative has been filmed at one of its engagements as part of last year’s Live Little Stories For Leeds and, in this instance, supported by highly inventive theatre makers Slung Low. It seems to be taking place in a car park though it’s none the worse for that and the socially distanced audience seem relieved to be able to see a real life show at last.
There’s an interesting build up along the lines of a bona fide space launch and then Spooner arrives on his space vehicle to tell his tale. His ambition/dream is to go into space and there are some amusing anecdotes about how he sets about trying to achieve this by attending conferences and seminars where creative “hacks” were devised. Then comes a golden opportunity when he persuades astronaut Tim Peake to become a patron and the latter volunteers to take Spooner with him on his historic flight to the International Space Station in 2015. This is in the form of a 6cm model scanned and 3D printed from Spooner himself, embedded with his DNA and dubbed Mini-Jon. It’s an ingenious idea which very nearly doesn’t work but, like any good adventure story, there’s a last minute twist and things come good in the end. For both Peake and Spooner, it’s mission accomplished.
Spooner is a very engaging raconteur who forms a good bond with his audience and demonstrates the sort of enthusiasm which helped him to reach his goal. Dressed in a facsimile space suit and helmet he employs some home made technology to enhance the story all of which is contained in his custom built shed which, I couldn’t help noticing, is sponsored by Cuprinol. There’s quite a number of surreptitiously included learning opportunities embedded in the narrative but this never feels like a school science lesson and Spooner’s genuine sense of awe and wonder is manifest throughout. There are also plenty of jokey asides with a running gag of his wife phoning him to make arrangements for what sounds like a rather prosaic evening. Delightfully Spooner demonstrates how a land line dial telephone works as most of his audience would regard it as something from ancient history.
This is a good family oriented show (far more so than the one I engaged with the previous day) and although some of the immediacy is lost through the fact that this is a recording I found it an intriguing 45 minutes – especially once I knew that it depicted real events. It seems that with enough determination and a creative approach, dreams really can come true.
How I Hacked My Way Into Space is available on You Tube – click here
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