If you had to guess what was on any given astronaut's iPod, Davie Bowie's "Space Oddity" would be a pretty good pick. Bowie's dark celebration of space travel, recorded in 1969, has an ambiguously unhappy ending, but it's a great song that spins a believable tale of the loneliness ("here am I sitting in a tin can") and distant adulation ("the papers want to know whose shirt you wear") of floating above the world.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield — commander of the International Space Station (ISS) for the past five months, until he boarded a Soyuz space capsule bound for Earth on Sunday — is obviously a fan of the song. With some help from musician Emm Gryner and some video editors on Earth, Hadfield made his rendition of "Space Oddity" the first full music video recorded in space. And with the change of a few lyrics, it's also a beautiful way to bid farewell to a half-year in orbit. As he sings and tweets, this was his "last glimpse of the World."
As Lily Hay Newman says at Gizmodo, "If you can think of a better way to spend your last day in space, I'd love to hear it."
Anyone who's been following Hadfield's space adventures on Twitter or YouTube won't be surprised that the commander can sing and play guitar — he also recorded the first song in space in December (listen below) — and has been delighting Earth-bound humans with photos and videos about what life is like in space. (The Week highlighted his experiment trying to wring out a soaking-wet washcloth, and Scientific American rounds up nine other great Hadfield videos.)
Still, even with all the tweeting and ISS demonstrations, "this I did not expect," says Phil Plait at Slate. This video of "Space Oddity" "is, quite simply, amazing." David Bowie is impressed, too:
CHRIS HADFIELD SINGS SPACE ODDITY IN SPACE!"Hallo Spaceboy..."Commander Chris Hadfield, currently on... fb.me/24sZNW5ly— David Bowie Official (@DavidBowieReal) May 12, 2013
What's not to like? says Tim Hornyak at CNET News. The music video "has some stunning shots of the station zooming over our planet, as well as Hadfield's acoustic guitar drifting through a module in zero-g." And then, come on: Singing "'I'm floating in a most peculiar way' while actually floating up in space, Hadfield wins the internet."
With deference to the genius of David Bowie, here's Space Oddity, recorded on Station. A last glimpse of the World. youtube.com/watch?v=KaOC9d…— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) May 12, 2013
Here, Hadfield sings his original song, "Jewel in the Night," aboard the ISS in December (the guitar has been at the station since 2001, and it's staying behind):
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 5 legitimate scientific controversies
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 10 things you need to know today: October 2, 2014
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
- Why I got married — without a wedding
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- Ted Cruz is the new Sarah Palin
- Why the Rubio-Lee tax plan is great politics — and great policy
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
Subscribe to the Week