What Do You Listen to on Orbit? Astronauts Take iPods

So you're spending two weeks in space. What do you put on your iPod?

January 8, 2009, 1:15 AM

Aug. 16, 2007 — -- It's the ultimate high, orbiting 210 miles above the Earth in the space shuttle watching the planet whip by at 17,500 mph and listening to your favorite music.

Every astronaut on the space shuttle Endeavour has an iPod. NASA certified the MP3 players for flight about a year ago. Astronauts used to carry CD players, but iPods are better because they are smaller and weigh less.

Two years ago, when astronaut Andy Thomas flew on STS-114, he carried a CD player with 20 CDs to get all his favorite music into space.

And what did he carry up? "Beethoven, Bach and the Beatles. The three Bs," he said at a press conference.

Shortly after that the phones began ringing off the hook at NASA. Apple was offering to send iPods up with astronauts. It is not that simple, because anything that flies on a shuttle had to be certified for safety.

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell says her iPod is loaded. "I am bringing up lots of stuff. I have lots of favorite artists, Gwen Stefani -- in fact she went to Cal State Fullerton, the same college I went to -- Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, I have a number of Christian bands like Barlow Girls, and Watermark and Casting Crowns," she said in an interview before flight.

"And I recently got a CD of special songs from my boyfriend that I put on my iPod that I will enjoy while I am up there, just a collage of really good tunes, nothing that I am usually singing with Max Q, but just stuff that I enjoy."

Max Q is the all-astronaut band at the Johnson Space Center, and Caldwell is its lead vocalist. She said she doubted she would be doing much singing in space. "I bet I will be humming; I don't know that I am going to belt anything out and bother my crewmates. They haven't asked me to sing anything for them."

Pilot Charlie Hobaugh is a self-confessed ice cream junkie who won't get any ice cream on orbit ("The space shuttle doesn't have a fridge"). He is bringing an iPod, but said he has no idea what is on it.

"I listen to music and I like music but I couldn't tell you who the group is, or anything else. I don't really pay attention to that.

"I am a channel flipper," he said. "I will find something I like I will listen to it, and I will continue on flipping, it is kind of like having the remote control on the TV.

"It just so happens I have no idea what will be on my iPod. I just gave it to my kids and said, 'Put music on it you will think I like, and hopefully it will work out.'"

Mission Specialist Alvin Drew says anyone who takes a peak at his iPod would think he has no focus at all. He says he likes just about anything.

"What I don't like is probably the better question," said Drew. "I took my whole music collection and dumped it on an iPod to take into space so I have my entire jukebox up there, so whatever strikes my fancy I just call it up and play it."

Canadian-born spacewalker Dave Williams has a song his daughter recorded. "She plays the piano and she recorded 'What a Wonderful World It Is' for me to play while I looked at the Earth.

"I am flying a lot of different music. I really enjoy the blues, so I am going to be flying a lot of BB King and Eric Clapton and traditional blues artists and a lot of Canadian musicians involved as well.

"So it is going to be a great flight," said Williams, "and I am looking forward to looking out the window listening to the music."

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