So, using his reach on Highway Radio (you'd hear the DJ's voice on the I15 when traveling to and from Las Vegas and LA, near the small city of Barstow), he appealed to his listeners to help pay NASA's fine. Sure enough, he received a healthy response; listeners at home sent a couple of dollars and a local gym pledged that they'd match anyone that sends in a $50 donation, should someone feel generous. Sure enough with the help of small donations from listeners at home, truckers and businesses, the $400 was raised.
Triumphantly, Scott Barley wrote a $400 check and posted it to the Shire of Esperance. The 30 year debt was officially paid.
He heard nothing from Western Australia for two months.
But when he did hear something, it was a personal invite for him to fly to Australia. Esperance wanted the Californian radio host to be their guest of honor at the Esperance-Skylab 30th Anniversary celebrations this weekend, giving him three days of free accommodation. On Sunday July 12, Barley will present a comedy-sized jumbo check from the Highway Radio listeners, for the total amount of $400, finally paying off NASA's debt.
This whole event may seem a little insignificant when compared with the billions of dollars that are spent on launching the shuttle, or when compared with the international economic meltdown, but it is a touching story that has grown beyond the $400.
In a gesture of goodwill and thanks, Barley has become a representative of the City of Barstow, CA, as the US mayor has signed a document that will twin Barstow and Esperance (both cities with a population of about 14,000). Barley will present the key to the City of Barstow during the celebrations where the 1979 Mayor of Esperance will also be in attendance.
"It came as a joke, but something significant came out of it," Barley said. "The whole thing has really captured people's imaginations."
From now on, in the US city of Barstow and the Australian city of Esperance - where the only similarity used to be their populations - will be united by the fallen US space station 30 years ago. That day, July 13, will be forever known as "Skylab-Esperance Day."
I think Scott is currently making the dusty journey to Esperance, but he was told some wise advice by officials in the Aussie Shire: As the airport is a long distance from this small corner of Australia, when making the road trip to Esperance, Scott should, "Watch out for the kangaroos at dusk."
The DJ is unsure what was meant by this warning, but he promised to take photos of his experiences and send them to Discovery Space on his return next week. Hopefully we'll find out what kangaroos really get up to in the evenings...