In the 1970s, Carl Sagan and NASA sent out the Voyager Golden Record. This was a record that contained special sounds from Earth which, if played by some alien society, would allow them to get to know our planet in some capacity. The record includes special instructions as to how to go about playing it so the sounds will become audible. This album has sounds such as different animals and languages. It also features music from classical composers like Mozart and Bach, but even includes Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Good.”
Then in 2013, the idea of music in space was once again placed at the forefront of the world’s mind. Commander Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut on Expedition 35, recorded a video of him playing David Bowie’s song, “Space Oddity.” The video became extremely popular and immediately went viral on the internet. Since then, the idea of music, and more importantly vibration, has become a topic of high interest to those who study outer space.
Many songs have been played in space. NASA and the International Space Station have been using music as wakeup calls for astronauts since the late 1990s. Most of the early songs played were from classical musicians. However, starting in the mid 2000s, astronauts began to wake up to some of their favorite songs or tunes picked in honor of what they were going to be doing during that day of the mission. In 2004, a probe landed on Mars. That probe is also woken up each day by a different song; almost like putting a key into the ignition of a car.
The increasing number of songs played in space ranges from classical music, to national anthems from different countries, to rock and roll, jazz, or even school fight songs. This is a small portion of what has been heard in the great beyond. However, these are some of the most appropriate songs for the soundtrack of one’s journey through the cosmos.
10. “Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
It’s not easy to imagine being over a rainbow. Of course, that is only true if you have not been to outer space. The version by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole was played as a wakeup call on February 18th, 2012. “Over the Rainbow” was written in 1939 for the movie The Wizard of Oz. The music was composed by Harold Arlene and the lyrics were written by Dorothy Gale. It was originally performed by movie star and singer Judy Garland and immediately became her signature song. It was then remade by Hawaiian ukulele player, Isreal Kamakawiwo’ole, in 1993 for release on his Facing Future album. His version of the song has sold over a million copies as a single and literally went over the rainbow.
9. “Fly Like an Eagle” by Steve Miller Band
The song “Fly Like an Eagle” was played as Leland Melvin’s wakeup call on February 11th, 2008. On this day, Melvin was scheduled to lift the Columbus research module from the payload bank of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. This was the first time the song had been played in space, and has since been played numerous other times as wakeup calls for astronauts and rovers. The song was written by Steve Miller and his lead guitarist, Steve McCarthy. It was originally released on the band’s 1976 album, Fly Like an Eagle. The song reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
8. “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra
Like “Fly Like an Eagle,” Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” has also been played in space many times. It was first used as a wakeup call for Space Shuttle Atlantis commander Christopher Ferguson on October 10th, 2007. Its first play in space happened during one of the final days of the mission STS-135, which was the final flight of the Atlantis space shuttle. The song was written by ELO front man Jeff Lynne for the band’s 1977 album, Out of the Blue.
7. “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong is often cited as being one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. Therefore, it is only fitting that his music has been sent into space. His 1967 song, “What a Wonderful World” was first played in the cosmos on October 28th, 2007 as a wakeup call for Scott Parazynski. Parazynski was supposed to make his second lunar walk on this day. Upon hearing the song on that morning he was quoted as saying “That’s how you start the day in space. I can’t think of a more beautiful way to begin the day than to hear those words. It really describes the view from space.” The song was written by Bob Thiele (under the penname George Douglas) and George David Weiss for performance by Armstrong.
6. “I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King
The only people who know what it feels like to be in outer space are the people who have been to space. So can you feel the earth move up there? Maybe, maybe not; you would have to ask an astronaut. One thing is for sure, the Mars probe Opportunity can definitely feel the planet move. Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” is one of the probe’s wakeup calls. The probe is signaled to begin working each morning by a different song. “I Feel the Earth Move” was written by King for her 1971 album Tapestry. Tapestry has sold over 25 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. “I Feel the Earth Move” was one of the biggest pop songs of the 1970s, peaking at number on of the Billboard Hot 100 where it stayed for five weeks.
5. “Eclipse” by Pink Floyd
“Eclipse” is the final song on Pink Floyd’s 1973 album, Dark Side of the Moon. A very fitting song to be used on a space mission. Like “I Feel the Earth Move,” “Eclipse” is also one of Opportunity’s wakeup calls. The song was written by Roger Waters and David Gilmour. It is common played on the radio with the album’s preceding song, “Brain Damage,” suggesting that the two separate tracks are actually one song. Dark Side of the Moon takes its name from the line in “Brain Damage” that goes “I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”
4. The Theme from Star Wars
What better way to wake up in space than to hear the theme song from the most popular space based movie of all time. Star Wars’ theme song was originally played in the movie A New Hope and was used in every subsequent movie in the series. It is the first thing one hears in each film, accompanied by the scrolling yellow letters that catch the viewer up on what has been going on prior to the start of the movie. This theme song was composed by John Williams in 1977. It was used as the wakeup call in the International Space Station on November 11th, 2007.
3. “Rocket Man” by Elton John
Is there a more appropriate song for an astronaut than Elton John’s “Rocket Man”? The song has been played many times in outer space. It was first played on October 26th, 2007, when Doug Wheelock was schedule to make his first moonwalk. The song was written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin in 1972. It first appeared on the Honkey Chateau album. Taupin’s lyrics are about how astronauts are no longer considered to be heroes. In the 1960s, all astronauts were made out to be these great explorers. However, by the 1970s the public’s view switched from this to seeing astronauts as just people who are doing their job.
2. “Across the Universe” by The Beatles
On February 4th, 2008, NASA beamed The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” deep into outer space. This was the first time NASA had attempted to beam a song into the depths of the galaxy. “Across the Universe” was sent towards the North Star, Polaris. Polaris is approximately 431 light years from Earth. The song was written by John Lennon in 1969. It first appeared on a charity album called No One’s Gonna Change the World. This album was filled with songs by various artists. “Across the Universe” was then put on the Beatles’ final album, Let It Be.
1. “Space Truckin” by Deep Purple
Deep Purple’s “Space Truckin” is exactly what anyone would want to hear when they are flying through space. It has all the great elements of the 1970s’ space themed rock music. It has delayed distortion on the guitar and a drum solo with effects added to make it sound a little more out of this world. The song was first used as a wakeup call on November 6th, 2007. Since then it has been used a number of other times as a wakeup call for various astronauts. “Space Truckin” was originally released on Deep Purple’s 1971 album, Machinehead. A second version of the song became very popular. This was the twenty minute long live version from the band’s 1982 album, Live in London. This live version features a very long and iconic drum solo from Ian Paice.