New Will.i.am Song Broadcast From Mars
In the first-ever planet-to-planet music broadcast, NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity, beamed a new song by Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas to Earth on Tuesday, playing an mp3 file to an audience of engineers and students at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
“Why do they say the sky is the limit when I’ve seen the footprints on the moon?” Will.i.am sings in the song, “Reach for the Stars,” which made its solar system premiere after a 330-million-mile trip, from Earth to Mars and back again. (Alas, any nearby Martians were out of luck: the rover does not have speakers to broadcast music to its surrounding landscape, and the thin Martian air would have distorted the sound.)
The song debut, part of Will.i.am’s efforts to cheerlead for science and mathematics education, did not require any advances in space technology, but perhaps reflected a more media-savvy approach by the space agency in making its work seem glamorous. The singer was among a parade of celebrities who descended on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Aug. 5 to watch Curiosity, an automobile-sized mobile science laboratory, touch down on Mars; others included the actor Morgan Freeman, the director Barry Sonnenfeld, the comedian Seth Green and the actress Nichelle Nichols (who played Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek).
But this is not the first time that NASA has dabbled in music from outer space. The radio emissions of Saturn, recorded by the Cassini spacecraft, were shifted into audible frequencies, and the Kronos Quartet then incorporated the space sounds into a composition called “Sun Rings.” In 2008, NASA celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Beatles song “Across the Universe” by transmitting it into deep space.
So far, the galaxy appears ungrateful. “Obviously, deep space hasn’t sent us anything back,” a NASA spokeswoman noted.