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Nasa releases recording of ‘space music’ heard by Apollo 10 crew

When three American astronauts heard what they described as “outer spacey” music while orbiting the moon in 1969, they discussed whether they should tell their superiors about the weird sounds because no one would believe them.

world Updated: Feb 23, 2016 22:40 IST
HT Correspondent
The audio recordings of those sounds, made while the Apollo 10 spacecraft passed the dark side of the Moon and was out of radio contact with the Earth for about an hour, lay buried in Nasa’s archives for nearly 50 years.
The audio recordings of those sounds, made while the Apollo 10 spacecraft passed the dark side of the Moon and was out of radio contact with the Earth for about an hour, lay buried in Nasa’s archives for nearly 50 years.(Youtube sceengrab)

When three American astronauts heard what they described as “outer spacey” music while orbiting the moon in 1969, they discussed whether they should tell their superiors about the weird sounds because no one would believe them.

The audio recordings of those sounds, made while the Apollo 10 spacecraft passed the dark side of the Moon and was out of radio contact with the Earth for about an hour, lay buried in Nasa’s archives for nearly 50 years.

Transcripts of the conversation between astronauts Eugene Cernan, Thomas Stafford and John Young were released in 2008 but the actual recordings of the sounds were declassified only recently. They have now been used on an episode of Nasa’s Unexplained Files, a show on the Discovery channel.

“That music even sounds outer-spacey, doesn’t it? You hear that? That whistling sound?” one of the astronauts is heard saying on the recording

“Did you hear that whistling sound too?” Stafford, the flight commander, is heard asking. Cernan replied: “Yes. Sounds like - you know, outer-space type music.”

Cernan described the sounds as “weird music” while Young said they would “have to find out about that”.

The astronauts discussed whether they should tell others about the sounds. “That’s just like something from outer space, really. Who’s going to believe it?” Cernan asked. “Nobody. Shall we tell them about it?” Young replied.

Cernan then said they “ought to think about it some”.

The origin of the sounds are still not clear but sceptics say they were a technical glitch or caused by interference from VHF radios in the lunar module and command module that were close to each other. Scientists have also said the sounds could have been caused by charged particles interacting with a planet’s magnetic field.

A statement from NASA quoted Cernan as suggesting the sounds were “probably just radio interference”. He added: “I don’t remember that incident exciting me enough to take it seriously.”

Michael Collins, the pilot of the Apollo 11 spacecraft that carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon, said he too had heard “an eerie woo-woo sound”. But he wrote in his book, “Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys”, that NASA radio technicians had warned him in advance about interference between two radios resulting in such sounds.

“Had I not been warned about it, it would have scared the hell out of me,” he wrote.