Sid Champagne and Emily Perry and the 2012 Harry Kolcum Award

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Published on: November 13, 2012

Spaceflight is a team sport that takes more than just skilled engineers and technicians to win the game.

We need managers and accountants, mechanics and janitors, clerks and cooks. And we need people skilled at telling others about what we do here, and why it is so important.

Harry Kolcum told the story of launch operations from the Cape for Aviation Week & Space Technology, a publication many have considered the bible of the aerospace industry, in part, because Harry’s reporting made it so.

He was completely plugged in to what was happening with our space program on both sides of the Banana River, always happy to celebrate success, but never shy in calling out failure.

As he was for so many of my media colleagues through the years, Harry was a mentor who was always willing to share his secret news tips with the veterans and help the rookies find their way around the press site.

He believed in the value of the space program and telling its story so much so, that he worked with his local space program friends, some of whom are in this room right now, in chartering the National Space Club Florida Committee as a founding member.

A few years after his death in 1994, the Space Club added the Harry Kolcum News and Communications Award to its list of prestigious honors bestowed each year to a pair of deserving professionals who exemplify the very best of what Harry was all about.

Sid Champagne and Emily Perry have earned that honor this year.

Sid Champagne

Sid Champagne is a news videographer for WFTV Channel 9 based here in Brevard County, and has covered local news, weather and sports stories here on the Space Coast for the past 22 years.

His career library of videotape includes more than 100 shuttle missions launched from Kennedy Space Center, and dozens of expendable launch vehicle shots from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

While many think all a cameraman has to do is point the lens at the action, push a button and stay in focus, the work Sid has done, especially in telling the story of space exploration, involves so much more.

Like every good reporter, he has to know as much or more about the space program than any of the on air talent he is pointing his camera at. And because in TV it’s not news unless you have video of it, Sid has to know when things are going to happen and be prepared well in advance to get the shot.

That means that for a launch he has to show up hours before liftoff to set up the satellite truck, establish a stable link with the station, haul out the equipment, lay out cable, set up lights, check sound, and do all of that while battling mosquitos and digesting the very best coffee and food that NASA has to offer from the roach coach, excuse me, mobile dining facility.

I’ve known Sid as long as he’s been here. I can tell you he knows and loves the space program as much as any of us. But he watches what happens with the practiced eye of a skilled and objective journalist who wants only to tell the story, good or bad.

And when it’s been bad, as it was the day we lost Columbia, the WFTV newsroom turned to Sid and relied on his expertise to help the station chronicle what happened that day, capturing the news and the emotion of an historic national tragedy.

And when it’s been good, as it was the day John Glenn made his second flight into space in 1998, Sid was there to help his station and ABC tell the story of six astronauts and one American legend leaping off the launch pad and into the history books. Sid says that was a highlight of his career.

For his professionalism, skill and dedication to telling the story of America’s space program in the very best tradition of Harry Kolcum, the National Space Club Florida Committee presented Sid Champagne with the 2012 Harry Kolcum News and Communications Award.

Emily Perry

Emily Perry is director of the Air Force Space & Missile Museum at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, a post she has held for 18 years.

Working very much behind the scenes, she makes it possible for thousands of visitors to the Cape to get an up close and personal look at the historic facilities where America’s space program was born, and the weapons that have helped us ensure our national security were first tested.

Because the Missile Museum is located inside the secure gates of a military air station that continues to operate as an active launch site, it has always been a challenge to share all that the museum has to offer with the general public.

In fact, the Missile Museum is often referred to as one of Brevard’s Best Kept Secrets.

But the work Emily has done, especially during the past year or so, has begun to erode that perception. With the opening of a new History Center outside the south gate, and the introduction of free public bus tours from the 45th Space Wing Public Affairs Office, more and more folks now have the chance to hear the Cape Canaveral story, thanks to Emily and her team of volunteers.

On a personal note, as secretary of the Air Force Space & Missile Museum Foundation, whose job it is to support the 45th Space Wing in its museum operations, I have first-hand knowledge of how important Emily’s work is to the success of the museum, and of her many and varied gifts she must put to use to get her job done.

On any given day you may find her in meetings, writing reports, producing a special event or even cutting out letters to glue on the background of a fun new space-related exhibit meant to capture the public’s attention, such as the one now on display at the History Center that celebrates the Jetson’s, one of the great space-related TV series that was so popular during the Cape’s missile hey days.

Because she embodies the very best qualities of a professional communicator, whose expertise, talent and devotion is so important in helping sustain public interest in our space program, the National Space Club Florida Committee presented Emily Perry with the 2012 Harry Kolcum News and Communications Award.

For more information about the National Space Club Florida Committee and to join, visit www.nscfl.org.

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