There is a psychological reason for a guitar on the International Space Station

Boosting materiel into orbit is expensive, so nothing makes it onto a rocket that shouldn’t be there. Every extra gram means more fuel. So why would NASA expend precious propellent on making sure astronauts had an acoustic guitar up there? Two words: mental health.

Besides being the first Canadian to walk in space, Commander Chris Hadfield was known for his musical stylings onboard the International Space Station. When his 2013 rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” was captured from the ISS, it garnered millions of views, giving the famed Larrivée P-01 parlor guitar the best advertisement in the solar system. But the Larrivée guitar wasn’t there for publicity; it was part of a NASA psychology program.

On Sunday, Hadfield responded to Twitter user Eren Uzun’s question about the now-famous guitar and what possibly made the instrument ISS-friendly. “Did you bring your own guitar to ISS or did they gave you a special one? (non-flammable etc)” they asked. Hadfield clarified that NASA put the guitar on ISS in summer 2001 because it was good for mental health.

While the physical stresses of life in space are well-documented, in 2001, NASA was becoming increasingly concerned with the psychological stresses that come with space travel, especially now that astronauts were spending longer amounts of time in orbit.

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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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