Greatest hits: When space and music collide

With space songs from the Beatles to, Jethro Tull, REM and Buck Owens, music and the universe are forever linked.


It seems that space travel and music have been forever linked and a number of artists from the recent song from the Mars Curiosity rover to country legend Buck Owens on Apollo, many artists have written or performed specific music for many different NASA and other space agencies world-wide. Here we take a look and in some cases a listen to some of the greatest space-music collaborations.


According to NASA this was the first time in history a recorded song has been beamed back to Earth from another planet Mars. Students, special guests and news media gathered at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to hear "Reach for the Stars" by musician after it was transmitted from the surface of Mars by the Curiosity rover.


Use of music to awaken astronauts on space missions dates back at least to the Apollo Program, when astronauts returning from the moon were serenaded by their colleagues in mission control with lyrics from popular songs that seemed appropriate for the occasion. Usually picked by flight controllers or by crew members’ friends and family, most space wakeup calls are musical, but sometimes include dialog from movies or TV shows.

Beyoncé  space

Beyoncé gets a space shuttle crew gets moving with "Run the World (Girls)."

R.E.M. space

The four astronauts of the final space shuttle mission are greeted by R.E.M. front man Michael Stipe and the group’s hit, "Man on the Moon.". According to Stipe: “I recorded ‘Man on The Moon’ for NASA in Venice, Italy, where Galileo first presented to the Venetian government his eight-power telescope.


The "Take AIM at Climate Change" music video features lyrics based on the latest science, images showing NASA visualizations, and rhymes and rhythms inspired by contemporary rap and hip-hop, according to NASA.

Beatles  space

Music video by Beatles tribute band Love & Mersey celebrates the return of the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer vehicle ATV to the International Space Station and sends a rocking musical greeting to ESA Astronaut André Kuipers, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and the Station’s crew.

Buck Owens space

In the late 1960s, the first compact cassette tapes were being taken on Apollo flights. These tapes were loaded with music, but were recorded over as the astronauts used them to store data and observations. Apollo 8 was the first mission to carry such tapes, with songs specially recorded by country and western star Buck Owens, according to NASA.


The first Moon landing crew of Apollo 11 carried Dvorak’s New World Symphony. This video is an homage to Neil Armstrong.


By the time Apollo 15 went to the Moon in 1971, music in space became more varied, with songs by The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, The Moody Blues and, of course, Frank Sinatra’s ‘Fly me to the Moon,’ NASA said.

Jingle Bells space

Legend has it NASA’s Gemini crew were the first to send music back to NASA. “According to a number of sources, astronauts Walter M. "Wally" Schirra Jr. and Thomas P. Stafford on Dec. 16, 1965, played “Jingle Bells” for mission control on a harmonica and bell set they had smuggled onboard.


ESA astronaut André Kuipers is a big music lover and when he was aboard the ISS, several bands and artists sent greetings when they found out that André was a fan of their music, including the UK band rock band Marillion, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, Dutch household names Fluitsma and Van Tijn and guitarist Harry Sacksioni.


Four songs: ‘Lalala’, ‘Bald James Deans’, ‘Hot Time’ and ‘No Love’, composed by musicians Julien Civange and Louis Haéri, hitched a 4000 million kilometer ride aboard ESA’s Huygens probe, finally landing on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, on Jan. 14, 2005. The music, together with the Huygens probe, will remain forever on the surface of Titan.

Elton John space

Space shuttle astronauts got a wake-up message from Elton John and one of the legendary performer's greatest hits. "Rocket Man" which describes a long-term space bound astronaut's mixed feelings at leaving his family to do his job, has been played to awaken four shuttle crews aboard Discovery and Atlantis. "Rocket Man" also, one of NASA's top 40 wakeup call songs listed for voter selection during a contest to commemorate the space shuttle Discovery and Endeavour's last missions, earned nearly 5,000 votes from the public.


Although STS-135 was the final space shuttle mission, the International Space Station will continue an uninterrupted human presence in space. This music video featuring the space station and its crews is set to the song "World" by recording artists Five for Fighting.

The Beatles space

For the first time ever, NASA beamed a song -- The Beatles' "Across the Universe" -- directly into deep space at 7 p.m. EST on Feb. 4, 2008.


Meteor Wrong Blues (from Space School Musical)


This image of Mercury’s Holst crater is one of 23 Mercury craters assigned names by the International Astronomical Union. Holst was named for English composer Gustav Holst, who is best known for his orchestral suite The Planets — the third movement of which is "Mercury, the Winged Messenger".


From NASA: Moments before the final launch for the space shuttle Atlantis, STS-135, Seth Green premiered Bear McCreary's "STS Fanfare" at the NASA Tweetup for the final launch of the space shuttle program. McCreary composed the music for the television series Battlestar Galactica; The Walking Dead; Eureka; Human Target; and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. He also worked with film music legend Elmer Bernstein, who composed the music for The Magnificent Seven and The Ten Commandments.

Jethro Tull space

NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, circling Earth aboard the International Space Station, and musician Ian Anderson, founder of the rock band Jethro Tull, collaborated for the first space-Earth duet.


Sometimes the link between space and music is confusing. In 2011 when China launched its first space station, China's state TV (CCTV) played "America the Beautiful." The Guardian wrote: "The choice of soundtrack for the Tiangong launch raised several questions. Is this the work of an idealist seeking to usher in a new era of trans-Pacific co-operation, a nationalist who wants to colonize American culture as well as outer space, or simply a propaganda gaffe? When asked why an American hymn was chosen, the state channel appeared to be stumped. "I don't know how to answer your question, I cannot help you.'" They didn’t broadcast Kate Smith’s classic version but you get the idea.