A few days ago we were all with our eyes to the sky, or rather glued to the TV, to see the latest venture of Space X, a company founded by the “Leonardo da Vinci of our times”, Elon Musk. At 9:22 pm on May 30, a rocket left Cape Canaveral towards ISS, the International Space Station, with two astronauts inside.
But why is this space travel so important? How did we get there? And what does music have to do with two astronauts in space? We will tell you … fasten your seat belts, let’s go!
Space X, the project
In order to understand how we got to the launch on May 30 and why it represents a milestone in space travel, let’s try to clarify what Space X’s project is. From the official website, in the Mission section, the ambitious multiplanetary life project of Mr. Musk (translated):
“You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great – and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.”
Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as Space X is an aerospace company that manufactures vehicles but also offers space transportation services. It is headquartered in Hawthorne, California.
Founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, the objective of Space X is to reduce the costs of space transport to finally reach the colonization of Mars. Space X results (non-exhaustive list) include:
- launch the first privately funded liquid propellant rocket to reach orbit (Falcon 1 in 2008)
- to be the first private company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft (Dragon in 2010). And to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (Dragon in 2012)
- make the first reuse of an orbital rocket (Falcon 9 in 2017)
- be the first private company to launch an object in orbit around the Sun (a Tesla Roadster in 2018)
- be the first private company to send astronauts to the International Space Station (Dragon 2 on May 30, 2020)
- Listen to rock music very interesting for all of us! Okay, this is something I added, but in the next paragraph we will tell you everything!
30th May 2020: The launch
There’s a starman waiting in the sky … sang David Bowie. In the case of the Space X launch on May 30 of starman there were actually two, Bob Behnken and Doug Harley, NASA astronauts, linked by work and a strong friendship. Because I am convinced that in certain cases, when you are in space and you are traveling and maybe a mess happens, the two hands you need are those of a friend who would do anything for you. I think Wyatt and Bill knew about it in Easy Rider … we hope we made the idea.
Now, let’s go back to our two astronaut friends, ready to leave Wednesday May 28, 2020 from Cape Canaveral to the ISS. That day the Dragon rocket did not fly, because Florida’s weather conditions didn’t allow it.
The first new launch window available was Saturday 30 May, around 9.20pm Italian time. As the two astronauts made their way to the rocket for departure from Earth, the song chosen to support their steps is AC / DC‘s Back in Black.
Let’s do some autogenic training: imagine you are an astronaut walking towards your rocket, leaving for space. Put on a terrific suit, designed for you, and walk … what would you listen to? Back in Black seems like an excellent choice, it is very “bad” right from its start!
This time the rocket with the two astronauts leaves, without any problem. The images are exciting. They show the various stages of space travel, with the different parts of the rocket that gradually detach (and return to Cape Canaveral to be reused, an incredible Space X project), leaving the spacecraft to travel to the ISS.
Music selection in orbit
The two astronauts requested an interesting musical selection for this trip, which also includes the Blues Brothers version of the song The Girl from Ipanema and a patriotic Star Spangled-Banner played by a section of French horns, very rock and roll!
After 19 hours of space transit (sorry if the terms are incorrect, but I am excited to write certain things!) Bob and Doug finally arrive at the International Space Station. And here of rock and roll there is an incredible detail! Space X wakes up the two astronauts with Black Sabbath‘s song Planet Caravan.
Wake up music
We have discovered the alarm clock on this journey, but did you know that it is part of a “spatial” tradition to be awakened by music? Yes, it is from the 60s onwards that astronauts are awakened in their travels in orbit by specific melodies.
The first missions were dominated by classical and military music, which underlined the importance of what was in progress. Later, in the 70s, the chosen music becomes lighter, and the classical one is replaced by jazz and pop.
After the development of the Space Shuttle, more and more pilots come from the US Navy and Air force and from the most prestigious universities in the USA, so wake up music is dominated by university anthems and military marches.
Over the years, tastes change and astronauts are finally asked to communicate what they want to listen to: ranging from rock to country to TV and cinema themes. The most listened band in space are The Beatles: Across the Universe seems a soundtrack more than appropriate for this type of mission!
There is also a band made up of NASA astronauts, but they are fifth in the listening ranking!
Reaching the ISS
After being waked up by Black Sabbath and listening to their favorite songs, the two astronauts, Behnken and Hurley, joined NASA colleague Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, in orbit since April.
The crew, now composed of five people, held a welcome ceremony in orbit at 13:05 EDT (18.05 Italian time) to formally celebrate the historic space flight.
Behnken and Hurley will spend between one and four months working in the orbiting laboratory; the duration will mainly be determined by readiness of SpaceX’s next capsule, Crew Dragon. Staying in the ISS will allow the scientists to study the next steps, to reach the Moon again and eventually move everybody to Mars.
Who knows what song will be scheduled for their return! However, it seems that the operators and controllers on the ground have always had fun, musically speaking, making jokes to the astronauts. For example, by broadcasting songs like I’ll be home for Christmas in July!
Why is Space X mission so important?
The reasons why the journey of the Space X capsule is particularly important are many. Personally, among those that we are going to list now, I would also add listening to good music, but in the various sites and articles dedicated to the mission, I have not found my reason.
Space X is the first “US license” mission since 2011, the year in which the Space Shuttle program was terminated. In addition, it is an operation that marks a collaboration between private and public as the company is private, Space X, but with the support of public forces, NASA.
The relationship between the public and private sectors for space travel will also have financial importance. Over the past 9 years, the United States have relied on the use of Soviet rockets to send scientists to research space. The average cost of a passenger paid by the USA is 80 million dollars. The collaboration between Space X and NASA will make it possible to significantly lower the cost of the “ticket” and therefore of research.
In addition to economic and scientific reasons, at this particular moment in history, there are other reasons behind the importance of this trip.
Surely, it is the fact that the public around the world focuses on something other than the Covid-19 pandemic which, as we know, has had an impact not only on health but also on the economy, with millions of unemployed people (if you want to deepen the employment issue with some advice click here). This launch represents a recovery, a sign of restart for various industries.
In addition, and above all, this mission represents a sign of optimism, of hope, a way of remembering what human beings are capable of. As with the Apollo launches of the late 1960s, today this mission arrives in an atmosphere of deep political divisions, racial tensions and insecurity towards the future.
Even though we can’t all get on the spacecraft and move away from what’s going on, metaphorically and for a while, we travelled away with Bob and Doug.
However, if you really want to go with the two astronauts and have your music selection, send the CV here: https://www.spacex.com/careers/index.html