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About Countdown

"Countdown" is a song by Rush from their 1982 album Signals. Its lyrics are about the first launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia, which the band members watched from a VIP area called "Red Sector A" (the name was later used for a song on the band's next album, Grace Under Pressure). The song incorporates audio from voice communications between astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen and ground control along with commentary from the Kennedy Space Center Public Affairs Officer leading up to the launch. The song incorporates a driving rhythm and heavy use of synthesizers, with Geddy Lee switching between his synthesizer on the verses and his Rickenbacker 4001 bass on the song's chorus. The lyrics paint a vivid account of the group's experiences witnessing the launch. The song closes the album, with its cautionary tales of man's reliance on technology, on a more positive, celebratory note. The song was used as a wakeup song for astronauts during STS-109, which was the last successful flight of Space Shuttle Columbia. It was used again for astronaut Mike Fincke during STS-134, flown by Space Shuttle Endeavour on its final mission before retirement. Fincke described how his friends Greg Shurtz and NASA employee Ken Fisher chose the song because the band was inspired to write it after viewing the launch of STS-1. Fincke went on to say the song was played as a tribute to the space shuttle program, which has inspired people around the world. This song, as printed in the liner notes of the Signals album, is dedicated to "the astronauts Young & Crippen and all the people of NASA for their inspiration and cooperation." 


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Lit up with anticipation
We arrive at the launching site
The sky is still dark, nearing dawn
On the Florida coastline

Circling choppers slash the night
With roving searchlight beams
This magic day when super-science
Mingles with the bright stuff of dreams

Floodlit in the hazy distance
The star of this unearthly show
Venting vapors, like the breath
Of a sleeping white dragon

Crackling speakers, voices tense
Resume the final count
All systems check, T-minus-nine
As the sun and the drama start to mount

The air is charged, a humid, motionless mass
The crowds and the cameras
The cars full of spectators pass
Excitement so thick, you could cut it with a knife
Technology high, on the leading edge of life

The earth beneath us starts to tremble
With the spreading of a low black cloud
A thunderous roar shakes the air
Like the whole world exploding

Scorching blast of golden fire
As it slowly leaves the ground
Tears away with a mighty force
The air is shattered by the awesome sound

Excitement so thick, you could cut it with a knife
Technology high, on the leading edge of life
Like a pillar of cloud, the smoke lingers
High in the air
In fascination with the eyes
of the world we stare

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Rush is a Canadian rock band formed in August 1968, in the Willowdale neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario. The band is composed of bassist, keyboardist, and lead vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist and backing vocalist Alex Lifeson, and drummer, percussionist and lyricist Neil Peart. The band and its membership went through a number of re-configurations between 1968 and 1974, achieving their iconic lineup when Peart replaced original drummer John Rutsey in July 1974, two weeks before the group's first United States tour. Rutsey's departure stemmed primarily from health concerns regarding his diabetes. In 2015 the band played their final show due to Peart's declining health. more »

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