With Colonel Chris Hadfield making Canadian history during his stay in space, becoming the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station this week, I began to wonder about what it must be like to live outside of Earth’s atmosphere.
We’ve read and seen a lot of what astronauts encounter when they rocket off of our planet.
We know about the sensation of weightlessness. We know about the awesome sight of the big, blue globe we all call home. And we know about the unusual diet that keeps our space travellers healthy and fit.
But what about the remarkable sounds astronauts hear?
I’ve put together a list of my most memorable sounds connected with outer space, which includes some historic moments as well as pop-culture favourites inspired by the great beyond.
1. Neil Armstrong’s moon landing. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong uttered the immortal words, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” Humanity hasn’t been the same since.
2. “The Imperial March.” Darth Vader’s theme song is not only popular with Star Wars fans, it’s an ageless classic that makes us think immediately of the galaxy and what might not be so far, far away.
3. Mark Kelly’s emotional speech to his wife. ‘I’m looking forward to coming home. Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows,” were among the words U.S. astronaut Kelly recorded from the International Space Station in the months following the attempted assassination of his wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.
Kelly’s message was played during U2 concerts in 2011. He was on a space shuttle mission while Giffords recovered from the shooting.
4. “The Final Frontier.” For multiple generations, the voice of Star Trek captains speaking the monologue associated with that sci-fi franchise’s films and TV shows has inspired many to want to explore space.
5. Chris Hadfield’s performance with Barenaked Ladies. On February 8, 2013, Hadfield teamed with one of Canada’s favourite rock groups, Barenaked Ladies, on “I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing),” a song that was commissioned by the CBC. It was written by Hadfield and Barenaked Ladies lead singer Ed Robertson, and partially recorded in space.
6. Theme song from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The thrilling 1977 movie features a theme song built around five key notes. In the film, those notes are used by aliens to communicate with humans.
7. The Curiosity Mars rover’s spooky landing. In August 2012, the NASA rover hit the surface of Mars and did so with a loud and eerie whoosh that could have been a score for any sci-fi horror flick set in space.
8. “E.T. go home.” Steven Spielberg tugged at our heart strings in 1982 with an adorable alien with a squeaky voice who came from outer space to remind us all of the importance of home.
9. Felix Baumgartner’s free fall. In 2012, the Austrian daredevil completed a thrilling jump from 128,000 feet (about 24 miles or 39 kilometres) above the earth.
While Baumgartner wasn’t miked during the fall itself, we could hear the instructions being given to him from a member of his team on the ground. The calm, detailed instructions as he manoeuvred out of the capsule and steadied himself to jump was nerve-wracking—and unforgettable.
10. “Superman.” Conductor John Williams wrote the theme song for the 1978 movie and it has remained a timeless piece of music that evokes the mythology surrounding one of the greatest comic book heroes of all time—and perhaps the most famous fictional space alien in history.
Be sure to let me know your favourite space sounds. Also, if you have a hearing-related question, don’t be shy about asking. Send your comments and questions to the Connect Hearing Facebook page at facebook.com/ConnectHearingCanada. I will respond to your queries in a future article.
MJ DeSousa, an audiologist and Director of Professional Practice at Connect Hearing, leads a team of hearing professionals across Canada. For more information about hearing loss please visit www.connecthearing.ca