Space Explorers, Inc. Planetary Times Volume: 04 Issue: 04 Article: 2

Max Q: The All-NASA Rock Band

In early 1987, astronauts Robert Gibson, George Nelson, Brewster Shaw, and Jim Wetherbee formed the first all-astronaut rock group. This self-described “easy rock” band started meeting secretly in an aircraft hangar to play guitars and sing. Nelson was then training for STS-26, NASA’s return to flight after the Challenger disaster, and music gave him an outlet for the stress of the shuttle simulator.

So why the name Max Q? Gibson named the band after the engineering term where q is the dynamic pressure from the atmosphere against an ascending spacecraft. He joked that, like a launched shuttle, the band made lots of noise, but no music.

Eighteen years later, Max Q is still rolling with a new lineup. The current members are all actively involved in NASA’s space program at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. Despite their day jobs, the egos of the band members couldn’t be more down to earth.

“We’re not a visual band. We don’t wear flashy clothes, and we don’t spit on the audience,” said vocalist Tracy Caldwell.

“We’re serious about space flight, and we’re serious about music,” said Steve Robinson, lead guitarist. “Training takes over your brain…Max Q enables me to get away from the space technology, the procedures, the stress and the incredible responsibility. It’s another, different challenge.”

Bookings, when they do appear, are usually at small parties, weddings, charity events, and local bars or NASA space centers. The band’s line-up is constantly changing due to flight crew assignments, training, and the occasional retirement.

This story was adapted from an AirTran Airways Inflight Magazine article about Max Q. Read the article at

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