For fans of Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam, and space exploration, this video will require very little explanation. But just in case some people haven’t seen it yet, this musical performance was a tribute to the long-awaited roll-out of the fully-stacked Space Launch System (SLS) at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It’s guaranteed to give you goosebumps and maybe even bring a tear to your eye!
The roll-out was part of a countdown dress rehearsal for the launch of the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission, the inaugural flight of the SLS scheduled to take place this coming May. It all began at 5:45 PM EST (2:45 PM PST) on Thursday, March 17th, when the fully-stacked SLS and Orion spacecraft emerged atop its mobile launch platform from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VLB).
They were then transported by a crawler-transporter 6.8 km (4.2 mi) to Launch Complex 39B, arriving at around 4:00 AM EST (1:00 AM PST) on Friday, March 18th. A time-lapse video of the roll-out can be seen below, and a full-length version is available on Youtube, courtesy of NASASpaceflight.com. The musical tribute (shown above) was produced by NASA Executive Producer and Showrunner Sami Aziz and is available on NASA’s Youtube channel.
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The lyrics to Vedder’s Invincible are very appropriate for the historic occasion. First, we get a Space Oddity-type segment where the crew and mission team are engaged in preflight checks, followed by liftoff. Luckily, this time around, the mood is happy and there’s no ominous sense that something is going to go wrong:
“Can you hear? Are we clear?
Cleared for liftoff, takeoff…
Come in, come in, radio, what’s your story?
…Feeling wider than awake, yeah
Better crooked than straight
What follows is especially poignant. Between a rousing chorus – “Ah, invincible, when we love!” – Vedder employs some rather vivid imagery to address the importance of Artemis and the future space exploration. In particular, he paints a picture of a world in conflict (the pandemic, Ukraine) and a better future that lies ahead:
“Now there’s smoke on the horizon
And the clouds are looking violent
There’s a future in need of a frame
Compass spinning in my brain
There’s a theory for everything
Resurrection to the big ol’ bang…
Most importantly, Vedder shows how spaceflight has historically been a unifying force and that our shared accomplishments in space remind us of what life is worth:
“Feeling honest as a promise
Troubled times have come upon us
At the core of the cosmos
We are so much more than particles!”
“Yeah, so feel important
You are light, you are principle
When you love, invincible
Our shared light, indivisible
Last, but not least, there’s the way that exploring the heavens for answers to life’s greatest questions is inextricably linked to life here on Earth:
“Ah, the humanity, the calamity
The spilling blood, the gravity
We got the heavens, we got the Earth
And in between, we got big surf
Who could ask for more?
The only rule is to keep your cool
When we love
We are light
Hey, you got a light?“
The message is clear. We are invincible when we let love guide our decisions and our future. Even in a world marked by divisions and war, where many are afraid of a nuclear confrontation, there are still things that can bring us together – like space exploration and how it shines a light on our shared heritage and shared hopes for the future.
Eddy Vedder, ladies and gentlemen! He’s still got it. And just as important, he still gets it!