Music From Space

Today is my birthday, so I thought I’d take some time off from the usual Sky Lights and share this cool video of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who recently returned from the International Space Station (ISS). He was serving as Commander of the mission, but had enough free time to compose this video performance of David Bowie’s 1969 classic Space Oddity. He posted it to his page on Vimeo and enabled the “embed” option. Thank you sir.

Turn on your speakers, and use the full-screen option for an even better view. I don’t often embed videos in Sky Lights, but I really had to make an exception for this one. And I’m a huge Bowie fan. If you don’t have iframes enabled in your browser you won’t be able to see the video here, but can always watch it on Hadfield’s Vimeo page (link above).

Note: This video went viral soon after it was posted on May 12. I can only link to it through Vimeo. So depending on the time of day, you could experience some buffering problems. Trust me — it’s definitely worth the wait. Run-time is 5:31.

Being weightless makes it slightly more difficult to play any musical instrument, but Hadfield does just fine. As you’ll see, he does more weightless juggling than playing the guitar, but when he does play he nails the tune.

FYI, that guitar has been on the ISS for years. It was delivered on an early Space Shuttle mission. Many astronauts have played it. If you’re a guitar expert, and curious about the instrument, it’s a Larrivée Parlor acoustic guitar ($1700 on eBay). With launch costs of around $55,000/kilo ($25,000/pound), NASA spent $75,000 to get that guitar up there.

I learned of this video on one of my favorite blogs, XKCD. There you can read blog author Randall Munroe’s answer to the much-asked question: Is this the most expensive music video ever made? Note that Munroe’s link is to the now-defunct YouTube version, so if you can’t watch it here on Sky Lights, use the Vimeo link. Enjoy the video, and enjoy XKCD.

Next Week in Sky Lights ⇒ Consequences of Light Pollution

How Telescopes Work - Part 2
Q&A: Consequences of Light Pollution

2 thoughts on “Music From Space”

  1. Those were NOT the exact lyrics of Space Oddity. What’s this “soyiz hatch” thing he inserted in the 3rd line of the song?

    1. Yes, there were some minor changes to the original lyrics, mostly done for accuracy. The line you refer to: “Lock your Soyuz hatch and put your helmet on” replaced the original “Take your protein pill and put your helmet on.” Protein pills don’t exist. So he added a reference to how astronauts have to get to and from the Space Station. The Space Shuttle is now retired. The Soyuz rocket and spacecraft are of Russian design, well-tested and reliable. At this time, except for a couple new American cargo-type ventures, Soyuz is the only way to transport humans back and forth.

      You’ll notice at the end of the video how something capsule-shaped drops by parachute to the ground. That was Hadfield and crew returning to Earth. Even though there’s a huge puff of “smoke,” that’s just dirt blown upward from the impact. It was a safe landing. A combination of parachutes, thrusters, and airbags work to cushion the landing. Impact with the ground is only around 1.5 m/s (5 feet/second), and the astronauts are lying prone on their backs on well-padded reclining seats.

      Unlike early American space capsules, which “splashed down” in the ocean, the Russian Space Agency decided to do it on solid ground (which they have more of than any other nation). FYI: Canada comes in second, and the US third. The Soyuz landing system has had a few mishaps, but none related to the fact that they were landing on solid ground.

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