The Astronauts of One Strange Rock Choose Their Favorite Songs for Space Flight

TV Features One Strange Rock
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The Astronauts of <i>One Strange Rock</i> Choose Their Favorite Songs for Space Flight

When I had the pleasure of speaking to astronaut Chris Hadfield, I was kind of afraid he’d feel like I was wasting his time: Sure, I wanted to hear about his scientific career and his experience working on National Geographic Channel’s dazzling One Strange Rock. Of course I did.

But mostly, I wanted to talk about David Bowie.

You might have seen Hadfield’s cover of “Space Oddity” on YouTube. (Excerpts are montaged into One Strange Rock.) It takes some audacity to cover a David Bowie classic at all, but Hadfield upped the ante by being the first guy to do it in space.

“At first,” he says, “I thought, ‘Gee, why don’t I just cover Queen while I’m up there?’ I mean, there are some people you just don’t touch. But I got talked into it and I ended up liking how it came out.”

“Does the gravity situation affect the guitar strings?” I ask.

He says it didn’t—there was enough tension on the strings that they were relatively unaffected—but that you had to be crafty about holding it because gravity wasn’t helping it lie against your body.

“It’s singing that’s hard,” he adds, “because fluid doesn’t drain out of your head. Imagine standing on your head for an hour and then singing while you’re upside down.”

I can actually imagine that, and it doesn’t sound pleasant. Hadfield says the best part was getting an email from Major Tom himself, who thought Hadfield had really captured something important.

“Bowie emailed you?”

“Yeah, I mean, he knew it was happening because we had to get permission. It was great that he liked it.”

“Be honest,” I say. “Which was a bigger thrill: Going into space, or getting the nod of approval from The Thin White Duke?”

Hadfield laughs and suggests it’s a close race.

The eight astronauts who co-host One Strange Rock were asked for their “space flight songs” (we already know Hadfield’s, and I endorse the choice). Here’s what they came up with.

Chris Hadfield

Gustav Holst, “The Planets”
Richard Strauss, “Also Sprach Zarathustra”
David Bowie, “Space Oddity”

Jeff Hoffman

The Doors, “Light My Fire”
The Beatles, “Here Comes the Sun”
Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah”

Mae Jemison

Shirley Bassey, “This Is My Life”
Aloe Blacc, “Love Is the Answer”
Minnie Riperton, “Adventures in Paradise”

Jerry Linenger

William Whiting and John Bacchus Dykes, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save (The Navy Hymn)”
Bart Howard, “Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)”
The Highwaymen, “Highwayman”

Mike Massimo

Radiohead, “High & Dry”
Sting, “Why Should I Cry for You”

Leland Melvin

Bart Howard, “Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)”
Elton John, “Rocketman”

Nicole Stott

Five for Fighting, “What Kind of World Do You Want?”
Dan Owen, “Made to Love You”
Drivin’ N Cryin’, “Roll Away”

Peggy Whitson

Coldplay, “A Sky Full of Stars”
Rachel Platten, “Fight Song”
American Authors, “Best Day of My Life”

One Strange Rock airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on National Geographic Channel. Check out Paste’s review of the series and Amy Glynn’s report from Space Camp.

Amy Glynn is a poet, essayist and fiction writer who really likes that you can multi-task by reviewing television and glasses of Cabernet simultaneously. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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