Space music not from Earth shocked three astronauts on the Apollo 10 mission in 1969 when they were orbiting the Moon on the far side – where all radio transmissions from Earth are blocked. The startled crew members heard the mysterious space music through their headsets and even discussed whether they should tell anybody about it. They knew the bizarre sounds probably did not come from Earth.
This was in 1969, during a mission in preparation for the famous Apollo 11 Lunar landing when the first human set foot on the Moon. NASA classified the tapes and kept quiet about the whole incident.
It was not until about forty years later – in 2008 – when the recordings were declassified, that the general public got to know about this. Since then scientists and lay people have been debating about where on Earth (or non-Earth) that music could have come from.
Did the space music these men heard while on the far side of the Moon come from VHF interference, Earth, or somewhere else? Why did NASA decide to keep quiet about it for so long? (Image: NASA)
Space music origin has baffled everybody
When an astronaut, spaceship or space observatory is on the far side of the Moon, it is not possible to communicate with anything or anybody on Earth because the radio signals are blocked (by the Moon).
So if three astronauts heard this space music, which apparently they did, it must have come from somewhere else.
Some people suggest that the signals that transmitted the space music must have come from nearby, because nobody on Earth picked it up. Perhaps they came from a blue-tooth like system with a fairly short range.
NASA had nobody else flying around in the area, neither did the Russians, Europeans, Chinese or Japanese, which leaves just one other possibility if it was a short-range transmission – it was sent by intelligent aliens.
If the music had come from Earth and the radio signals bounced off from another planet – which a number of readers have suggested – then that space music would have been heard by the people at ground control or somebody else on our planet. So far, nobody appears to have come forward saying they heard it.
The spacecraft was on the other side of the Moon, which meant it could not pick up any radio transmission from Earth. So, how did the astronauts pick up the weird space music on their headsets? Where did it come from?
NASA kept quiet about it
As far as the general public was concerned, the Apollo 10 mission went smoothly, with nothing untoward happening.
The Apollo 10 spacecraft got within 5,000 feet from the Moon’s surface when it entered lunar orbit in preparation for Apollo 11’s manned lunar landing three months later. All seemed to be going according to plan, as far as everybody on Earth could tell. Nobody knew that the three crew members – Tom Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan – heard weird ‘whooooing’ and ‘whistling’ sounds through the headsets.
So, why would NASA put the lid on such an event? It’s not as if little green men were about to attack Earth and they wanted to prevent a mass global panic. It was just weird music. If we had all known about it in 1969, it could have been investigated by competent scientists across the world.
The following transcript between the three astronauts while they were hearing the space music came from the YouTube footage at the bottom of this page.
– “It sounds like, you know, outer space-type music.”
– “You hear that? That whistling sound? Whooooooooo!”
– “Well, that sure is weird music!”
Al Worden, the Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 15 lunar mission in 1971, said it would freak him out if he heard space music while on the dark side of the Moon. (Images: Left – alworden.com. Right – en.wikipedia.org)
The mysterious music lasted for almost one whole hour. Just before coming out of the far side of the moon, when radio contact with Earth would resume, the three astronauts discussed whether they should tell ground control about it or keep quiet.
This is what they said to each other just before communicating with Earth again:
– “It’s unbelievable! You know?”
– “Shall we tell them about it?”
– “I don’t know. We ought to think about it.”
New TV sci-fi series
The mysterious incident will be the subject of an upcoming episode of the popular Science Channel TV series – NASA’s Unexplained Files – which starts its first season this week. In the episode, people refer to the ‘strange, otherworldly music’.
Apollo 15 astronaut, Al Worden, who appears in the Science Channel series, said:
“The Apollo 10 crew was very used to the kind of noise that they should be hearing. Logic tells me that if there was something recorded on there, then there was something there. NASA would withhold information from the public if they thought it was in the public’s best interest.”
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Mr. Worden said regarding the incident:
“You don’t hear about anything like that until years after the incident occurs, and then you kind of wonder, because it’s such an old memory of those things that you get concerned about if they were making something up or was there something really there? Because you never really know.”
“If you’re behind the moon and hear some weird noise on your radio, and you know you’re blocked from the Earth, then what could you possibly think? We’d had a lot of incidents where guys who flew in space saw and heard things that they didn’t recognize, and you wonder about all of that. I have a very open mind about what could’ve happened. It’s somebody’s hearsay evidence – it’s only a visual or audio event, which is hard to pin down. Recollection is one thing, but actual proof is something entirely different.”
The Cassini spacecraft picked up weird broadcasts from Saturn, some of the noises were really bizarre. They were caused by charged particles moving through Saturn’s magnetic environment, scientists say. However, the Moon has neither an atmosphere nor a magnetic field, so Cassini’s scientific explanation cannot be applied to what the astronauts heard. (Image: en.wikipedia.org)
Were astronauts concerned about their careers?
According to the Science Channel commentator, the three astronauts probably decided not to talk about it when back on Earth because they did not want to be grounded. Perhaps they were also worried about being labelled UFO seeking nuts.
Young eventually became one of the few human moonwalkers as commander of the Apollo 16 mission. Cernan also walked on the Moon as commander of the Apollo 17 mission. Stafford pursued a career as an astronaut, but he never went on a Lunar landing mission.
Andrew Chaikin, a researcher and author, said that some NASA personnel had suggested that interference from VHF radios on the command module and lunar module were interacting and causing those weird sounds. However, Worden said the Apollo 10 crew members were “very used to the kind of noise that they should be hearing. Logic tells me that if there was something recorded there, then there was something there.”
Worden said that if he were on the far side of the Moon and cut off from communication with ground control and heard something like that “the first thing probably, it would freak me out!”
The Apollo 10 spacecraft orbited the Moon 31 times. We know about this one incident that lasted nearly an hour. We don’t know whether they heard the space music again during the thirty other orbits.
Video – The space music mystery
In this video you can see and hear the astronauts discussing whether they should report what they heard. The Cassini spacecraft picked up similar sounds from Saturn, but scientists say the conditions on the far side of the Moon are different, so the scientific cause around Saturn cannot apply to the Moon.