Beyonce, Paul McCartney and Elton John are all stars who lined up to sing wakeup songs to the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis. Its flight closes out the 30-year space shuttle program, and there is a certain cachet to waking up the crew with a song.
Beyonce rocked Mission Control with "Run the World (Girls)," dedicated specially to astronaut Sandra Magnus, the one woman on the crew. She was joined by mission Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Douglas Hurley and Mission Specialist Rex Walheim.
"Good morning Atlantis, this is Beyonce. Sandy, Chris, Doug and Rex, you inspire all of us to dare to live our dreams, to know that we're smart enough and strong enough to achieve them. This song is especially for my girl, Sandy, and all the women who've taken us to space with them and the girls who are our future explorers."
Paul McCartney sang "Good Day Sunshine" and greeted the crew: "Good morning guys. Wake up! And good luck on this, your last mission. Well done."
Astronauts don't usually get this caliber of wakeup song. But this last space shuttle flight attracted its share of celebrities.
After Atlantis, there will be no more wakeup songs for years. The astronauts on the space station are woken by a buzzer on their alarm clock; after all, the space station is a year-round operation and even the most music-loving astronaut would be hard-pressed to come up with a different song every day for a six-month tour of duty.
The first wakeup song was played in 1969 for the three astronauts of Apollo 10, the second flight to orbit the moon. Mission control played a segment of "The City of New Orleans, beginning with the lyrics, "Good Morning, America how are you?"
Astronaut's families usually choose the wake up song – but sometimes their wishes are ignored. Eileen Hawley, the wife of astronaut Steve Hawley, once asked controllers to play Barry Manilow's "A Little Traveling Music, Please" for her husband. The flight director on duty said he was appalled at the choice, and insisted on playing the U.S. Air Force theme instead.
One song has actually been banned from ever being played as a wakeup call again: "Paralyzed," by the Legendary Stardust Cowboy. Flight director Don Puddy wrote about the day they played it for the three-man crew on Skylab, America's first space station, in 1973:
"Late one night, a future shuttle astronaut and CapCom (Bob Crippen) was trying to come up with a song to play in the morning. I told him I had a song that was guaranteed to wake the dead. Since he and I had a good relationship, I got my copy of 'Paralyzed' and we sent it downstairs to the communications center in the bowels of the building. They cued it up on one of the comm loops, and the next thing I see is Bob looking like a deer frozen in car headlights, then he starts screaming 'Yes! Yes!' then turning purple because he is laughing so hard he can't breathe. Of course, he and I are the only people in Mission Control who are able to hear Ledge [Stardust Cowboy's nickname] on our headsets, and everyone in the normally silent room is wondering what the hell is going on!"
"Paralyzed," if you've never heard it, is filled with growls, outbursts, and bursts of frantic guitar chords. It was banned, legend has it, because crew productivity on Skylab dropped so dramatically after the song was played -- they believed the song jinxed them.
NASA's History Division provided information for this report.