Grayling native pitching NASA story in Hollywood
Charles (Bobby) Ryan, Jr., a 1983 Grayling High School graduate, is in Hollywood pitching a screenplay he wrote about his NASA special assignment. The project would include filming in Grayling.
In 1983, Ryan moved to the Bay Area of California and started working for NASA. It was a dream come true for the 18-year-old. Since then he has worked on eight programs at three NASA Centers including flying aboard the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, the Lunar & Mars Office, Space Station Program Office, and in Mission Control in Houston. But that’s not the amazing part of the story; it was the special assignment that NASA would later task him with, a real-life mission impossible.
Ryan had been writing NASA since he was eight and was giving a presentation about NASA at the Grayling Elementary School. By 13 he had an advanced SCUBA certification and at 15 he was landing aircraft over his house, which is now Grayling City Hall.
When he got to NASA it wasn’t long before he saw first hand that the space agency was being hampered by politics and lack of awareness. Ryan put anger into action, eager to accept the torch passed by his heroes of the Apollo generation.
When he attended the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, he created a university based student organization to assist NASA. The project mushroomed, and they started building a full-scale space shuttle. Years later the fire rescue team at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center called Ryan.
“We need your Shuttle as a trainer,” Ryan said. “Your country needs you, NASA needs you.”
Ryan had the mission of a lifetime. He named the shuttle “Resolution!” and he would have to do the impossible with nothing. What takes NASA dozens of personnel, two years, and one-two million tax dollars he would have to do alone, without funding and on the wrong side of the North American continent.
Years passed, in the windswept landscape of tumble weeds and migrant strawberry farms. Finally, it was time to move the two-story structure, the size of the front of a Boeing 747. But every railroad official told him “No.” “It’s not going and if you even attempt to send it we’ll turn it back at the Mississippi.”
Ryan sent it anyway. Three months later one shuttle launched, as another entered The Cape. It became the only “other” shuttle to be amongst the shuttle fleet. Mission accomplished, briefly.
In 2008, as construction proceeded, Tropical Storm Fay sailed toward the Resolution! For four days the storm anchored over NASA. The lake adjacent to the Resolution! overflowed its banks until the Shuttle was in the waters, waves crashing over its hull. In the aftermath there was significant damage. During repairs a tornado whipped through, tearing planks of the scaffolding that impacted the Shuttle. The Resolution! always seemed to be under attack.
A new President was elected. The new administration canceled NASA’s current programs. The shuttle fleet was grounded and the replacement Constellation Program was scrapped. The work of thousands of engineers and scientist for years and tens of billions of tax dollars destroyed. The United States was grounded.
“NASA does not fail, the country fails NASA,” Ryan said. “But perhaps the journey of the Resolution! is not over. If the story of the Resolution! can show people the tragedy and frustration NASA endures, that could be its greatest contribution.”
Ryan is now in Hollywood networking with people from the film industry to make the Resolution! movie.
“I consider Grayling my home and get back as often as I can and hope they do make the movie and film some of the early scenes in Grayling,” Ryan said.
Ryan is the son of Charles and June Ryan. They owned the Montgomery Ward store in Grayling during the 1970s. Charles was active with the Masonic Lodge, the Red Cross and was a Crawford County Sheriff's Deputy. June was active in the Eastern Star and an avid Bunco player.