When we envision the fruits of the research of the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (aka NASA), we tend to think of images. I think I exaggerate not at all when I say that the never-before-seen view of the Earth from space gave humanity a whole new perspective, no pun intended, on our very existence. But you don't have to strain too hard to think of historically momentous NASA sounds, either: "Houston we've had a problem," "One giant leap for mankind."
If you can't think of more than those two, why not spend some listening time with NASA's new Soundcloud account, or alternatively perusing the NASA Sounds web site, which features a larger number of downloadable mp3s. "There are rocket sounds, the chirps of satellites and equipment, lightning on Jupiter, interstellar plasma and radio emissions," writes Create Digital Music's Peter Kirn. "And in one nod to humanity, and not just American humanity, there’s the Soviet satellite Sputnik (among many projects that are international in nature)." Better still, "you’re free to use all of these sounds as you wish, because NASA’s own audio isn’t copyrighted."
We've included here three of NASA's Soundcloud playlists: space shuttle mission sounds, solar system and beyond sounds, and President Kennedy sounds. When you've listened through all NASA themselves have uploaded, you can find more sound clips of outer-space interest in NASA's liked sounds, a collection of the ambient sounds of space exploration that include those of a space suit's internal pump, a Japanese experiment module, and, of course, a space toilet — a constant sonic companion on any trip to the final frontier.
Please note that you can download the Soundcloud files by following these instructions. From the NASA Sounds web page, you can download files by right clicking on them and then saving them to your hard drive.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.