updated 03:55 pm EDT, Tue May 14, 2013
Will be part of an album of songs inspired by ISS mission
The video of International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield performing a tailored version of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" as a farewell to the ISS which has recently gone viral was created using an iPad. Hadfield, who has become a sensation in his native Canada and worldwide for his social media presence and earlier musical efforts, will be recording an entire album of songs based on the mission, and was the first person to record an earlier song while in orbit. Hadfield employed Garageband and other apps to help make the video.
While Bowie has not said much about the video, he gave permission for Hadfield to record the song before the mission began and tweeted the video's arrival with the phrase "Hallo Spaceboy," the title of another of his songs. It has also been prominently featured on Bowie's website for the past few days. Hadfield has just returned to Earth following a five-month mission about the ISS, and the video gained more than a million views in the first 12 hours after release (it is now approaching seven million views).
For those who haven't seen it, the video (embedded below, along with Bowie's own version) takes the song to a whole new level by being filmed out in space. In the original version, a fictional astronaut named Major Tom reflects on the planet Earth below him and the wonders of the universe, deciding to join with them rather than return.
To hear the lyrics (modified to fit the farewell to the ISS more explicitly) accompanied by actual views of the Earth from space and Hadfield "floating in a tin can, far above the world" adds remarkable imagery and infuses the song with new life and meaning, harkening back to the heyday of the US space program and its successful challenges to photograph the Earth from the surface of another world. The video has served as a reminder of the progress made since Bowie wrote the song, and the promise of adventures yet to come.
Hadfield called on his friend Emm Gryner, a former Bowie band member, to play the distinctive piano part heard in the song. The video was shot by Hadfield with editing assistance from filmmaker Andrew Tidby and producer Joe Corcoran, and the social media debut was coordinated with Hadfield's sons, who manage his online presence. Hadfield had previously featured the iPad as his constant companion on the station, often using it with a teleprompter app to make videos, post photos, engage in conference calls, upload poems and other media to his Tumblr site and many other tasks.
The astronaut has recorded with other bands before and previously released a couple of other songs during his mission, including "Jewel in the Night" which was released on Christmas Eve, and "Is Somebody Singing?" (also know as ISS) -- a collaboration with Ed Robertson of the band Barenaked Ladies and a fan group called the Wexford Gleeks -- in February. The cover of "Space Oddity" comes nearly 44 years since the release of the original song in the summer of 1969, during the excitement and afterglow of the first manned moon landing.
In addition to Hadfield's vocal, the song incorporates ambient space station noise that the astronaut uploaded to Soundcloud. Gryner summed up the media and public reaction to Hadfield's various efforts by saying that she was honored to "make music with someone who -- through his vibrant communications with kids in schools to his breathtaking photos to his always patient and good-humored demeanor -- has done more for science and space than anyone else in a generation."
Hadfield, 53, was asked if he would undertake a one-way mission to Mars if asked by NASA to do so. Although he is married with three adult children, Hadfield said that if the opportunity came up, he would take it. Ironically, Bowie already has another song ready for Hadfield to record if he gets there.