I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story just came out and Spinney has been sharing all kinds of stories about our favorite, yellowest Muppet. Some are completely heartbreaking (I should not have read this, I am crying all over again just thinking about it) and some are “holy shit, we almost lost Big Bird in the Challenger disaster.”
Spinney told Huffington Post that he was invited to ride on the Challenger space shuttle and naturally said yes.
The only thing that saved him? The Big Bird costume was too big.
“Big Bird couldn’t be stored on that spaceship,” he recalled. “There’s just no place to put him. The quarters were quite cramped.”
The actor vividly remembers watching Challenger’s disastrous launch. “We saw its fate and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I was supposed to be on that.’”
“But worse than that selfish thought,” he continued, “I felt, ‘Oh my god, those poor people. They’re gone.’”
There is no way to look at that unspeakable tragedy and say “coulda been worse” but there is something about the idea of losing Big Bird in that way that would have ruined a lot of kids. Muppets probably shouldn’t fly in planes either, or anything with the remote possibility of being unsafe. Someone hook them up with a Popemobile.