Updated: Aug 3
Exploring the musical universe is an ever-evolving journey. From ancient instruments to modern-day digital synthesizers, music has been a part of human life since before recorded history. Music has also travelled beyond our planet and into space, with astronauts playing music on their missions. In this article, we’ll explore the history of music in space, the instruments used, the benefits of playing music in space, and the future of space music.
The History of Music in Space
The history of music in space is closely intertwined with the history of space exploration. As early as the 1960s, astronauts have been playing music in space. The first piece of music to travel to space was a recording of “Jingle Bells”, which was sent to the Apollo 8 mission in 1968. This was followed by the first live performance in space, which was performed by astronaut William Anders on the Apollo 8 mission in 1969.
Since then, astronauts have been playing music in space on a regular basis. On the Apollo 10 mission in 1969, astronaut John Young played “Happy Birthday” on a harmonica, which was the first time music was played in space by a human. The first full-length concert in space was performed by astronaut John Creighton in 1973 on the Skylab 4 mission. Since then, music has become a regular part of space exploration, with astronauts playing music in space to pass the time, boost morale, and even as part of scientific experiments.
Astronauts Who Played Music in Space
Over the years, several astronauts have become well-known for their musical performances in space. Astronaut William Anders is credited with being the first person to play music in space, performing “Jingle Bells” on the Apollo 8 mission in 1968. Astronaut John Young was the first to perform a live musical performance in space, playing “Happy Birthday” on the Apollo 10 mission in 1969.
Expedition 61 flight engineer Jessica U. Meir Plays Alto Sax aboard the International Space Station. (Image Credit: NASA)
Astronaut John Creighton was the first to perform a full-length concert in space, playing the guitar on the Skylab 4 mission in 1973. Astronaut Don Pettit has also become well-known for his musical performances in space, playing the didgeridoo and singing “Space Oddity” on the International Space Station in 2002. More recently, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield became a viral sensation after performing a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in 2013.
Instruments Used in Space Music
The instruments used in space music range from traditional instruments to digital synthesizers. On the Apollo 10 mission in 1969, astronaut John Young played “Happy Birthday” on a harmonica. Astronaut Don Pettit played a didgeridoo on the International Space Station in 2002. Astronaut Chris Hadfield used a digital synthesizer to cover David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in 2013.
Astronauts have also used more traditional instruments in space. Astronaut John Creighton played the guitar on the Skylab 4 mission in 1973. Astronaut Naoko Yamazaki played a shamisen, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument, on the International Space Station in 2008. Astronaut Roberta Bondar played the cello on the Discovery mission in 1992.
Benefits of Playing Music in Space
Playing music in space has several benefits for astronauts. Music can help astronauts pass the time and keep their spirits up during long and arduous space missions. Music can also be used as a form of stress relief in space, as it can help astronauts relax and focus. It can also be used to boost morale, as it can help create a sense of community and camaraderie among astronauts.
Drew Feustel, Oleg Artemyev, Ricky Arnold, Anton Shkaplerov and Scott Tingle. (Image Credit: NASA Johnson Space Center)
Music can also be used to help astronauts stay connected to their home planet. By playing familiar songs from Earth, astronauts can be reminded of the people and places they left behind, which can help boost their morale and ease the stress of being away from home.
Playing music in space can also have a positive impact on astronauts’ mental health. Studies have shown that music has a positive effect on mental health, as it can reduce stress, improve mood, and reduce anxiety. For astronauts, who have to deal with long periods of isolation and stress, music can be a helpful tool for managing their mental health.
Musical Experiments in Space
In addition to playing music in space, astronauts have also conducted musical experiments in space. On the Skylab 4 mission in 1973, astronaut John Creighton conducted an experiment to test the effects of zero gravity on musical instruments. He played the guitar, harmonica, and flute in zero gravity to see how the instruments would sound in space.
More recently, astronauts have conducted experiments to test the effects of microgravity on sound transmission. On the International Space Station in 2008, astronaut Naoko Yamazaki conducted an experiment to test the effects of microgravity on sound waves. She played a shamisen, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument, and used a microphone to record the sound waves in space.
Music in Space: The Future
The future of music in space is an exciting one. As technology and space exploration continue to advance, we can expect to see more musical experiments and performances in space. We can also expect to see more astronauts using music to stay connected to their home planet, as music is a powerful tool for connecting people all over the world.
Finally, we can expect to see more astronauts using music to boost morale and reduce stress in space. Music has long been a powerful tool for managing mental health, and as space exploration becomes more common, music will become an increasingly important tool for helping astronauts cope with the stresses of space exploration.