Canada’s Most Famous Singing Astronaut Explains the “Space Oddity” Situation

Our man in space, Commander Chris Hadfield, has posted the story of how his rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” came to be performed in orbit and why the video for it disappeared after one year.

The version of Space Oddity that I recorded on the International Space Station has had an amazing response – one I couldn’t have foreseen and has made me think about ever since. Just before we took it off of our YouTube channel to honour the 1-year agreement, it had been viewed 23,489,187 times. With the countless re-posts and re-broadcasts on television the actual number was far higher – hundreds of millions of people, from Seoul to Lahore to Lagos, watched, listened and thus took part in what has become a defining moment in my life. A humbling experience, shared with the whole planet.

The reasons we originally made the video were multifold. It was in response to repeated widespread requests via social media. It was a fun Saturday project with my son, Evan. It was a continuation of the other music that I was playing and recording while on ISS. But maybe most importantly, it was a chance to let people see where we truly are in space exploration. We’re not just probing what lies beyond Earth – we inhabit it. For the past 14 years, humans have lived and worked aboard a research vessel orbiting our planet. It is science fiction come to life. Like at all initial outposts, we’ve brought our traditions and sensibilities and are applying and appreciating them in a new place. Sometimes, as in the case of Oddity, it has let us see our ideas and creations, ourselves, in a new light. I had hoped to be able to capture the feeling of this one small step for humanity, and share it with you all.

Thus it was with some regret that we took the Space Oddity video off YouTube last May. David Bowie and his publisher had been very gracious. They had allowed his work, his intellectual property, to be made freely available to everyone for a year, and had in fact worked with us and the Canadian Space Agency to make it happen. There was no rancour, and we removed it from YouTube to honour that agreement.

This sequence wasn’t anyone’s fault.

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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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