A Valley band may soon have the distinct privilege of waking up astronauts in space with their music.

The Swamp Coolers’ song “I Want To Be an Astronaut” is among 10 finalists in a contest by NASA to choose two original songs that Cmdr. Mark Kelly and his five crewmates will awake to during their mission to the International Space Station on the shuttle Endeavour.

The 134th shuttle mission is slated to launch April 19 from Kennedy Space Center in Orlando, Fla. Kelly, husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was injured in the Jan. 8 shootings in Tucson, plans to be aboard the flight.

“(NASA has) a tradition of playing music as wake-up music for the astronauts, kind of like their alarm clock. They beam it up from Mission Control to the shuttle. As far as we know, this is the last space shuttle mission, so this is big,” says Terry Keel, the band’s guitarist from Mesa.

The song, written by singer and bass player Mike Kunes, was recorded in Keel’s home studio months ago. The band released it then on iTunes, where they have some chart success as an instrumental surf music band. At live gigs around the Valley, they play covers of popular music from the ’50s and ’60s.

The band’s other two members are Josh Garber and Steve Chernek of Phoenix. Chernek is a multimedia producer at the Daily News-Sun, Glendale-Peoria Today and Surprise Today, papers owned by the same company that owns the East Valley Tribune.

“Mike’s dad worked on the space shuttle back in the old days, when the program was new, and both of us are baby boomers and went to college probably in large part because we were inspired by the space race in the ’60s. It was all over the news, and it was big,” says Keel.

“I think we have a really good song. It’s a really positive song, about how everybody in that time period wanted to be an astronaut and how cool it was to be an astronaut.”

The two songs with the most votes on NASA’s Space Rock website (https://songcontest.nasa.gov/) will win the competition.

More than 1,000 songs from 47 states and 62 other countries were entered in the contest.

“We’re hoping we can make it all the way. There’s that big connection between us being the only song from Arizona — the only one from the entire Southwest, actually — and (Mark Kelly) being on the shuttle. We’re hoping to bring some positive attention to Arizona amid all the negative that’s been going around.

“It’s an incredible long shot for some guys sitting around in Phoenix writing a song to get this kind of national attention. As far as I know, Mission Control always uses big, major-label songs off the radio for the wake ups. This will be the only time they’ve used original songs from people like us, who don’t have a record contract,” says Keel.

Voting runs through April 19.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or azajac@evtrib.com

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