Hear the Declassified, Eerie “Space Music” Heard During the Apollo 10 Mission (1969)

The above video is a breath­less exam­ple of Amer­i­can cable tele­vi­sion, and how we love a good sto­ry and seri­ous­ly want some­thing to be more fan­tas­tic than bor­ing ol’ sci­en­tif­ic fact. It also ties into our culture’s per­pet­u­al love and nos­tal­gia for the space pro­gram of the 1960s.

The anec­dote takes place in 1969 dur­ing the Apol­lo 10 mis­sion, when the astro­nauts on board were in lunar orbit and fly­ing around the dark side of the moon. Hav­ing tem­porar­i­ly lost radio con­tact with earth, they begin to hear “weird music.” Eugene Cer­nan and John Young can be heard on the record­ings ask­ing “You hear that? That whistling sound?” Anoth­er astro­naut agrees:  “That sure is weird music.” The sound last­ed for about 60 min­utes.

These record­ings were only declas­si­fied in 2008 by NASA, which only adds to their mys­tery, along with the fact that the astro­nauts nev­er spoke on the mat­ter after­wards because they thought nobody would believe them, accord­ing to this BBC arti­cle.

So what could it have been? A Star Wars can­ti­na on the moon? Mar­t­ian ham radio oper­a­tors? The mono­lith from 2001?

Well, cut through the inter­net inter­fer­ence and it seems to be radio inter­fer­ence. This thread on Metafil­ter has some great non-click­bait‑y dis­cus­sion, includ­ing this:

The oth­er like­ly expla­na­tion is that radio noise from the uni­verse res­onat­ed with var­i­ous com­po­nents in Apol­lo, and ulti­mate­ly induced enough cur­rent on the radio anten­na to gen­er­ate a sig­nal. On the dark side of the moon, earth-based sig­nals fine tuned for human lis­ten­ers are absent. Back­ground noise and its impact on Apol­lo’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems would be promi­nent on the audio sig­nal.

But maybe this com­ment offers a bet­ter expla­na­tion:

Space whales.

Mean­while, you can cut through all that by lis­ten­ing to the full archive of Apol­lo 10 record­ings that NASA post­ed on archive.org on 2012. You can find the “music” on track 7, 10–030702_5-OF‑6, start­ing at 44 min­utes in, in all its static‑y glo­ry.

And for those who dig the music of sine waves, you could just lis­ten to this:

Relat­ed Con­tent:

NASA Puts Online a Big Col­lec­tion of Space Sounds, and They’re Free to Down­load and Use

Down­load Free NASA Soft­ware and Help Pro­tect the Earth from Aster­oids!

Neil deGrasse Tyson: ‘How Much Would You Pay for the Uni­verse?’

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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