Yesterday, August 28, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover Curiosity became the first spacecraft to transmit a song from the surface of another planet. The tune was heard during an event held at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, California, which manages the mission.
Musician will.i.am composed the song, called “Reach for the Stars,” specifically for this occasion. He was part of the group gathered at JPL yesterday, which also included students, a number of special guests, and members of the media.
Before the tune was heard, the people in attendance heard and saw a recorded message from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who sought to encourage students in pursuing careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
The event is just the latest in a series meant to boost national and international interest in the MSL mission, Mars, and space exploration in general. Online audiences reacted surprisingly well to this rover, by comparison to coverage other important NASA missions got over the years.
“Reach for the Stars” traveled more than 700 million miles (1.12 billion kilometers) on its way to Mars and back. Its composer says that the tune is now an anthem for NASA education, as well as the first interplanetary song ever.
“Today is about inspiring young people to lead a life without limits placed on their potential and to pursue collaboration between humanity and technology through STEAM education. I know my purpose is to inspire young people, because they will keep inspiring me back,” will.i.am says.
“Mars has always fascinated us, and the things Curiosity tells us about it will help us learn about whether or not life was possible there. And what future human explorers can expect. will.i.am has provided the first song on our playlist of Mars exploration,” the NASA Administrator said.
Former space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin, who is now the Associate Administrator for Education at NASA, expressed his hope that perhaps an audience member, or one of the countless people who watched the event online, will go on to become the first person ever to walk on the Martian surface.
“I can think of no greater way to honor NASA pioneer Neil Armstrong's life and legacy than to inspire today's students to follow his path. That first footprint that Neil placed on the lunar surface left an indelible mark in history,” he said.
“Perhaps one of our students here today or watching on NASA Television will be the first to set foot on the surface of Mars and continue humanity's quest to explore,” Melvin concluded.