Scheickart’s chose a selection of classical music, including British composer Vaughan Williams and American Hovhaness. “My other companions took along more popular music – some country, I recall,” he says. “Mysteriously, I was unable to find my cassette until about the ninth day of our 10 day mission. This was notable in that my flight mates happened not to much appreciate my music!”
10. First zero-g dance
Unfortunately, no definitive list was kept of the selections astronauts chose to take with them to the Moon. Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell remembers listening “to music from the movies Maroon and 2001 Space Odyssey”.
Carl Walker from ESA has spent many years piecing together the playlist from Apollo 12, which includes Suspicious Minds from Elvis Presley and Son of a Preacher Man by Dusty Springfield. It also features several country songs – popular among Apollo astronauts – and a song that led to another space first:
“Everyone’s favourite was Sugar, Sugar by the Archies, that was on my tape,” recalls Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean. “We would turn the recorder up loud and, floating above our couches, rock and roll to the Music,” he says. “A great memory even today.”
9. First (and last) duet sung on the Moon
Everyone loves a sing-along but only two men in the history of humanity have taken the opportunity to perform a duet on the Moon. During their four days on the lunar surface Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt walked, bounced and drove across the Moon collecting rock samples. But the highlight for viewers came when they burst into song.
Schmitt begins the impromptu rendition by singing “I was strolling on the Moon one day…” before being joined by Cernan. The song soon founders with the next line: “in the merry, merry month of December…May.” It completely falls apart when they realise they do not know any more words.
8. First TV soundtrack in space
For today’s long duration space missions, most astronauts find music vitally important. “Having some music in your ears is creating your own place to be,” says astronaut Cady Coleman. It is also practical, still serving the same purpose as Gagarin’s flight of preventing boredom. “On exercise equipment,” she says, “I couldn’t live without having music.”
But despite the fact that astronauts can upload new music from Earth whenever they want, they still put a lot of thought into the tunes they select. Esa astronaut Andre Kuipers’ playlist, as uploaded to the ISS, is an interesting case in point. Alongside Holst, Pink Floyd, Snow Patrol and Lou Reed (Satellite of Love, since you ask), there is a fascinating selection of soundtracks.
In addition to the, perhaps surprising, choice of Apollo 13 (where the astronauts nearly get killed), Titanic (where lots of the passengers are killed) and Battlestar Galactica (where the entire human race almost gets killed), there is a wonderful selection of TV cult classics.
These include Barry Gray’s compositions from Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds Space 1999 and the opening titles from UFO – the series where Earth is under attack from aliens and the actors are memorable, ironically, for being more wooden than puppets. With these wonderful series, Gerry Anderson inspired many budding astronauts, so it is fitting that this music has now been played in orbit.
7. First Flemish rock music
When he became the first European commander of the International Space Station (ISS), Belgian Frank De Winne took particular care to make sure his country’s music was properly represented in orbit.