There are more than 185,000 tracks on Spotify with “Moon” in the title—any of which are appropriate to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. On July 15, we’re queueing up the most popular of these “Moon” tunes, alongside some illuminating insights from NASA on how music is enjoyed in space. Songs like “Talking to the Moon” by Bruno Mars and Frank Sinatra’s iconic duet with Count Basie “Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)” are among the lunar tunes listeners love most.
David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” are among listeners’ favorites, in addition to R.E.M.’s “Man On The Moon.” The list features several tunes titled “Moonlight,” including ones from Ariana Grande and Grace VanderWaal.
According to NASA, it was customary for flight crews to be roused with wake-up songs played from Mission Control—tunes alluding to space or the sun rising were common choices. Along with being music lovers, quite a few astronauts also possess musical skill—and have even demonstrated it by rocketing instruments into space. Yet mastery of music in orbit is an even greater challenge than down on Earth.
“Playing a guitar without gravity is…messy,” says retired Canadian astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station, Colonel Chris Hadfield. “There’s nothing to hold it on your knee, or to suspend it by the strap, so it floats free, and every time you move your hands it wants to take off. I eventually learned to pinch it against my chest with my right bicep to hold it still. Even still, accurate picking was hard, and the muscle memory up and down the fretboard was wrong without the arm’s weight, so I overshot.”
(Images courtesy of NASA)
During the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, the flight crew didn’t have time for jam sessions, but they did reportedly bring cassette mixtapes made specially for them by the late record executive Mickey Kapp. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s mixtape featured Barbra Streisand’s “People” and Glenn Campbell’s “Galveston.”
Check out the music that’s been played “To the Moon and Back” in our infographic below.
3… 2… 1… liftoff! Check out this playlist of songs compiled by NASA’s Third Rock Radio, based on more than one million “Moon tunes” submissions.