Space Jam: Astronaut Sings Duet From the Space Station

by Nancy Atkinson on February 8, 2013

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Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield participated in an annual event for Canadian music students from a unique location: a long-distance perch in the Cupola of the International Space Station. Before launching to the ISS in December, Hadfield wrote a song with Ed Robertson of the band Barenaked Ladies, and Friday morning the song premiered as Hadfield, Robertson and a school glee club sang together: Hadfield performed his part on the space station; Robertson did his in Toronto with the Wexford Gleeks. The song was part of Music Monday in Canada, and while today’s premiere was pre-recorded, in May, students across Canada will play the song live with Hadfield in space.

The song is called “I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing),” it begins with the words:

Eighteen-thousand miles an hour
Fueled by science and solar power
The oceans racing past
At half a thousand tons
Ninety minutes moon to sun
A bullet can’t go half this fast.

Music aficionados can find the sheet music here and here.

Chris Hadfield in the Cupola of the ISS. Credit: NASA

Chris Hadfield in the Cupola of the ISS. Credit: NASA

Hadfield plays the guitar and sings with a couple of bands on Earth. Before he began his Expedition on the ISS, he told Universe Today he would be doing as much singing as he could in space.

“Music is really important to me, ever since I’ve been a kid. I’ve always played guitar and sang,” he said, “and I’m really hoping to have the chance to sit weightless with the guitar on board and play music, and also record some of the music I’ve written.”

He also is working to finish some songs he started writing on Earth while living on the ISS, which he called “a particularly inspirational environment” and maybe write some news ones.

“We have all the recording equipment we need on board,” he said. “It is basic but it is good enough to be able to record and I’m hoping to record at least one full CD’s worth of original music up there. It’s neat – I’m writing with my brother who is a musician, and he pointed out that a lot of the traditional folk songs came from people who were the first on the frontier — the early explorers, sailors, miners, and the fishermen — the people who are involved in the day-to-day of a specific human experience. To think I might be involved in helping to write some of the first space faring music, music that people might play and sing as they leave Earth for Mars, it is an interesting time in history.”

This isn’t the first Earth-Space musical collaboration: in 2011 astronaut Cady Coleman did a flute duet with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Alex Howlett February 9, 2013 at 4:25 AM

Quite the renaissance man!

Dima R February 9, 2013 at 4:53 AM

Nice tune. International recording studio in space anyone?

Brenda Jean Louise February 9, 2013 at 7:26 AM

Nice song. Great idea. I hope I can get a copy of it online.

Finipops February 9, 2013 at 3:20 PM

Am i the only one to find this kind of stuff boring and useless? No wonder younger people lose interest in space and science.

Rose Lawson Steinmeier February 9, 2013 at 4:44 PM

Apparently YES.

Rick Holcomb February 10, 2013 at 1:58 PM

You may not be the only one but I doubt you have much company. I thought it was very interesting. But then, I like music.

Rose Lawson Steinmeier February 9, 2013 at 4:03 PM

Things like this are what help our kids develop an interest in space. Thank you Commander Hadfield, and all those who help him with, and support him in, his attempts to connect with the next generation of Canadians.

Gozlemci February 9, 2013 at 4:08 PM

Excellent music and show. Congratulations to everyone who made it possible….

Aqua4U February 9, 2013 at 6:39 PM

Great outreach there… and the tune ain’t too shabby either! Now ya got me wondering what unique instrument might be designed and used ONLY in zero gravity…? Hmmm…

My wife is a school teacher and a musician. I sat her down and had her listen to this song… she LIKED it lots and will show it to her kids later.

Nhery Dagal February 13, 2013 at 3:02 AM

sweet. God bless you sir.

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