By Kevin Russell and Ned Davis
Have you ever looked up at the stars and thought, “I would love to go up there someday”?
Perhaps we were at a rave when we thought this, and perhaps heard the Music Of The Spheres. And in space, like any other destination, there will be music playing when we get there. It may be Chuck Berry.
But what will music and DJing in space really be like? By next year this dream might become reality. The commercial space industry is bringing us ever closer to sending average people and yes, DJs and artists, into space. We’ve just returned from the 2011 Next Generation Suborbital Researchers, and things are looking ‘up’ for musicians and DJs.
Although tickets cost $200,000.00 on Virgin Galactic (and they are already booking seats), it is still cheaper than Space Adventures, another private space line that will take you into space. If you can buy a ticket (and a few artists could use this as a great publicity opportunity), the trip to space will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience what only a handful of individuals in all of humanity have felt (watching that Chevy Chase talk show doesn’t count): the incredible ride and thrill of microgravity. And, once you are floating around, you will want to jam to some tunes while tripping on the fantastic views of God’s green foot stool from space.
Virgin Galactic, owned by Richard Branson (who, we’re told, is the King of England), nears completion of the testing phase of the SpaceShip2. Their method of rocketing you into orbit begins like a regular plane ride. Then, an hour into the flight, powerful rocket motors kick in and pin you to your seat as you travel at over three times the speed of sound into sub orbital space. You are now an official DJ astronaut! After 15 minutes or so of weightlessness, where you will be allowed to move about cabin, but not smoke, this would be the perfect opportunity to make some music. Finally, after about 10 or so minutes of weightlessness the craft turns around and goes back to earth (which takes about another hour to get down).
Since the Soviets and Americans began the Space Race, only 500 earthlings have made the journey to space. Most are engineers and scientists doing research. The others have been a handful of wealthy “tourists” who paid over $25 million dollars for the privilege (riding old Soyuz space crafts to the International Space Station is cramped and it lands on the ground, ouch!). In April and June of this year, with the last two NASA shuttle missions, we will transition to a new era in space exploration. Numerous private space companies have been designing and building earth and space based facilities, which include crafts, spaceports and space hotels for a new tourist market. SpaceX, XCOR, Masten Space Systems, Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin (owned by space enthusiast and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos) and Bigelow Aerospace are but a few. But the burning question for us is what kind of sound system will they install on these space ships?
We have come to expect music and entertainment systems in our transport and on long trips to exotic destinations. Space clubs and space hotels will be no different. We asked George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, about SpaceShip2’s media playback system, he said, “we’re having the people of Virgin Atlantic look at it.”
OK. So top audio engineers will be installing the cabin sound systems in the space ship. Also confirmed by the Whitesides is Grammy award winning band Muse is eager to make the trip to space (maybe they’ll find their own sound). Hopefully other artists and DJs will follow their lead (maybe that “Friday” girl will go and never come back). In this new realm, artists will be play an important role in conveying this wonderful experience important.
And almost every Astronaut gushes about the “experience” of being in space and describes just how amazing it is. In Frank White’s book, “The Overview Effect”, he tells us of the psychological shift which happens when we see Earth from above. This effect could inspire a new wave of music directly inspired from trips into space. As Brian Eno’s Apollo and Atmosphere helped define a genre, audio and music can be used to help manage the space traveler’s experience. Also music can take you back to a place and time like no other sensory medium. Many travelers will want to replay their personal Space Mix to re-live the moment they got their space wings. While new emerging research consistently indicates that music inspires, heals, and helps us communicate our feelings, we also see opportunities on the operational side. Because sub-orbital space flight (<100 miles high), like orbital (> 100 miles) will be a challenging flight profile (meaning a thrill ride and life altering experience all in one!), DJ mixes may find a new market with space tourists as away to relax from the stresses on your body. This is truly the next era of private space exploration.
Helping humanity deal with the positive impact of the Overview Effect, while communicating its relevance, could form the careers of artists and scientists for our new Spacefaring culture. How will beat-based approaches fair in a microgravity environment? We shall soon see. As Bowie sang “This is ground control to Major Tom/we’re heading through the door…” what is on the others side will be awe inspiring to the lucky and brave few who can make the journey.
By Kevin Russell, Founder of Metawave Media, and Ned Davis, DJ Times technology contributor