Tuesday, April 20, 2010

tunes to start your day...in space

I've always thought it pretty groovy that our space agency maintains a tradition of beaming wake-up songs to astronauts at the start of each new day in low Earth orbit. This little routine is observed not only to ease the transition from "sleep time" to "awake time," but to encourage a sense of camaraderie between flight crew and NASA managers on the ground. Last week I was even more delighted to learn that NASA keeps a detailed log of all the wake-up songs played for astronauts over the years! So in honor of the successful landing of the space shuttle Discovery just a few moments ago, I've put together a list of 25 of the best wake-up songs blasted on the space shuttle throughout the program's 29-year history.

The astronaut wake-up song tradition dates back to the Gemini and Apollo programs of the 1960s. Today, musical selections are made by managers at mission control in Houston and by crew members' families. Often, songs are played for individual astronauts. For example, there have been quite a few college fight songs (ex: "Hail Purdue" for various Boilermaker astronauts); songs about states or cities from which astronauts hail (ex: Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" for New York native Mike Massimino); and songs featuring astronauts' names (ex: "Come on Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners for STS-114 commander Eileen Collins).

Songs may also reflect specific missions or tasks for a particular day. For instance, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," which features a verse about Galileo, was selected in honor of the Galileo spacecraft, the main payload onboard STS-34. And Kylie Minogue's "Walking on Sunshine" was played on the day of an important spacewalk during STS-113. Of course, there have also been plenty of songs that simply reflect the wonder of waking up on Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Discovery, or Endeavour with a view of the world below and the infinity of space above. (In case you were wondering, prior to reentry this morning, the STS-131 crew awoke to Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again.")

Without further ado, here are my shuttle song selections! Wherever possible (from STS-91 on) I've linked to the actual wake-up call recordings, which include astronaut greetings from mission control.

Rocket Man - Elton John (STS-51D: April 18, 1985)
A Hard Day's Night - The Beatles (STS-30: May 8, 1989)
Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen (STS-34: October 21, 1989)
Kokomo - The Beach Boys (STS-31: April 27, 1990)
Shiny Happy People - R.E.M. (STS-58: October 25, 1993)
All I Wanna Do - Sheryl Crow (STS-72: January 18, 1996)
Space Oddity - David Bowie (STS-78: June 24, 1996)
Higher Love - Steve Winwood (STS-82: February 15, 1997)
Manic Monday - The Bangles (STS-91: June 8, 1998)
Girls Just Want to Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper (STS-92: October 13, 2000)
Here Comes the Sun - The Beatles (STS-97: December 7, 2000)
Fly Away - Lenny Kravitz (STS-98: February 18, 2001)
She Blinded Me With Science - Thomas Dolby (STS-102: March 15, 2001)
Voodoo Chile - The Jimi Hendrix Experience (STS-110: April 13, 2002)
Message in a Bottle - The Police (STS-110: April 19, 2002)
Fake Plastic Trees - Radiohead (STS-107: January 19, 2003)
Imagine - John Lennon (STS-107: January 29, 2003)
Clocks - Coldplay (STS-121: July 10, 2006)
The Astronaut - Something Corporate (STS-121: July 17, 2006)
Homeward Bound - Simon and Garfunkel (STS-118: August 21, 2007)
Have You Ever - Brandi Carlile (STS-124: June 4, 2008)
In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel (STS-127: July 25, 2009)
Beautiful Day - U2 (STS-130: February 11, 2010)
Galileo - Indigo Girls (STS-131: April 13, 2010)
What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong (STS-131: April 18, 2010)