HOUSTON (FOX 26) - When the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee officially goes on the clock for Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium, NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra will deliver a taped message from the International Space Station that will truly be out of this world.
That message will be played during a news conference in San Francisco Monday when the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee hands over the traditional Tiffany tray to the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, which will be the official passing of the torch to Houston.
Kelly's and Kopra's message, which will include the astronauts holding footballs sent to the space station for this event, will help kickoff the Super Bowl year for Houston.
"I think it's just awesome," said Ric Campo, chairman of the Houston Super Bowl Host committee, in an interview with FOX 26 Sports. "Houston is the city of the future, and we are Space City. So why not have a hand-off from space. I couldn't think of a better way to start the clock for Houston, if you will. It's going to be the countdown and why not start it from space."
The taped message from the space station will include the two American astronauts playing with the footballs.
"NASA Astronauts Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra have taken out the footballs that are on the space station," said Rachel Kraft, spokesperson for the Johnson Space Center.
"They've pumped them up, and in the handover ceremony they'll show a little bit of an example what it's like to throw a football in space, play with a football in space. How some football terminologies apply in space. They'll be doing that as part of the hand-over ceremony.
"Johnson Space Center is a big part of the Houston Community. We've been around exploring space for the first 50 Super Bowls. We'll be pushing the frontier of space through the next 50 Super Bowls and beyond. We're working with the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee as part of our larger efforts to be involved with the Houston community."
The process of getting the footballs to the astronauts did not involve NASA doing anything beyond what they normally do in sending items to the space station.
"We have two onboard right now," said Ryan Prouty, ISS Mission Integration and Operations office manager for Johnson Space Center. "We launched in December.
"With all the hardware that we launch up there, we make sure that it's certified to be safe, certified for the environment inside the space station. It's not going to harm the vehicle. It's not going to impact any other operations or hardware, and it's not going to cause any harm to the crew. So we look at the materials that it's made out of, check that it's fine and pack it.
"For the vehicle that we launched it on we have a capacity of 3.5 metric tons, and we filled it up. We did not make any priority trades. We didn't take anything off our manifest that we weren't already going to launch. We made sure that we covered everything that we needed to cover to launch on that flight.”
Campo sees NASA being involved with the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee and Super Bowl LI in 2017 as a "win-win" for everybody.
"When you think about it, NASA is part of our community," Campo said. "It's all about creating value for the community, and we think it's just an incredible opportunity for NASA to showcase their space activity, and for Houston to showcase that we are the city of the future.
"So it's a win-win for NASA, and it's a win-win for the Host Committee as well."