NASA's greatest hits: Musical moonlighting
Chris Hadfield, seen here during a 2001 spacewalk, plans to moonlight as a recording artist aboard the orbiting space station.
March 22nd, 2012
11:49 AM ET

NASA's greatest hits: Musical moonlighting

Music and space travel have been pairing up since the early days of NASA, including hundreds of wake-up tunes, a moonwalking crooner and even an orbiting duet.

Now, astronaut Chris Hadfield plans to do a little moonlighting as an orbiting recording artist. Hadfield, an accomplished acoustic guitarist, is scheduled to rocket to the international space station in December, where he hopes to lay down some tracks using an acoustic sound-hole pick up, a Shure microphone and Cakewalk software, reports space.com.

A Larrivée Parlor guitar is already waiting for him aboard the ISS and Hadfield's "studio" will be a "whisper zone" with a nice view of Earth.

"I think it would be really good to record a bunch of songs on orbit, original music on orbit," Hadfield told Space.com. "Some of the earliest spacefaring songs, I'm going to write and play up there."

There must be something special about making extra-terrestrial music, because it always gets attention. Maybe it's the romance of adding something uniquely human to the vast emptiness of space.

But sometimes the juxtaposition of the two borders on bizarre.

Take for example Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan's song and dance routine on the surface of the moon in 1972.

What about those NASA musical wake-up calls? Seems like there must have been hundreds of them over the decades. The tradition of waking up orbiting astronauts with music began in the 60s - and it's chronicled here.

Hadfield - who's chosen some of the wake up songs - once said, "You don't want to play a dirge or something uninspiring. You want to get going in the morning."

Among the first tunes played aboard a NASA spacecraft was a 1965 Gemini 6 performance by Jack Jones singing a rousing version of "Hello Dolly." Astronauts love show tunes.

By the time the shuttle program started winding down, iconic artists like R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe sang custom musical messages.

Another unearthly musical highlight: the flute-playing astronaut Cady Coleman performed an Earth-to-orbit duet with Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson in 2011.

Ron Garan proved that you can indeed play the blues in orbit, specifically inside a Soyuz spacecraft docked at the ISS. Watch him pick and grin three- and-a-half minutes into this video.

Ed Lu showed us how awkward it is trying to play heavy music in zero gravity. See it here at about one and a half minutes in.

Of course space geeks are very aware of the all-astronaut Houston, Texas, rock band Max Q, which formed in the 1980s and continues to perform today. Check out Max-Q's stellar rendition of The Romantics' "What I Like About You."

And finally, space music ain't just for humans.

NASA has proven that a planet can get into the act too. Listen to sounds of Jupiter recorded by NASA spacecraft. You can hear the interactions of Jupiter's magnetic field with the solar wind.

So what do you think? Is music somehow better when it's performed out of this world? Write us a comment below and let us know.

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