A Brief History of Sending Music into Space

Humans love music so much that we’re determined to export it to the rest of the universe. It started with our invention of radio, which inadvertently sent music into space starting about a hundred years ago. That means there if there’s life on any of the 300 or so earthlike planets within 50 light years of us, alien calls to our request lines should be lighting up right about…now.

But our music exports aren’t restricted to radio signals. We’ve been sending physical musical product out there for decades.

1. Gemini 6 and the First Song Performed in Space (1965)

On December 7, 1965, Wally Schirra and Thomas Stafford pulled out the harmonica and hand bells they’d stowed away and performed “Jingle Bells” for the planet. Few people beyond Mission Control heard their amateurish playing. Still, they were first, right?

 

2. The Golden Records of Voyager 1 and 2 (1977)

We’ve all heard of the famous Golden Records, actual phonograph records curated by Carl Sagan, that were bolted to the outside of the two Voyager spacecraft before their launches in 1977.

 

3. Blur and the Beagle 2 Mars Probe (2003)

Had all gone to plan, the European Space Agency’s Beagle 2 probe would have singled a successful touchdown on Mars by broadcasting back this song, thereby become the first group to have their music played on Mars.

 

4. Will.i.am and Curiosity (2012)

Blur never got a second chance to be the first to play on Mars because this Will.i.am song hitched a ride on NASA’s Curiosity and successfully beamed back this ditty.

 

5. Chris Hadfield and the First Song Recorded in Space (2012)

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is almost as famous for his music as he is for his space missions. On Expedition 35 to the International Space Station (December 16, 2012-May 13, 2013), Hadfield picked up a  Larrivée Parlor guitar that someone had left up there and recorded the first song in space, which was released via YouTube on December 24, 2012.

 

6. Sónar Music Festival Transmissions to GJ 273b (2017)

To commemorate the festival’s 25th anniversary, a team of musicians led by the Sónar music festival transmitted a total of eighteen musical pieces, each 10 seconds long, towards GJ 273b, an earthlike planet orbiting Luyton’s Star, a non-descript red dwarf 12.4 light years away, The 180-second message was repeated nine times. Another fifteen musical messages will be sent in April, all in hopes of luring aliens into some kind of response.

There’s gotta be more music-to-the-stars projects out there, right? What am I missing?

 

 

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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