It's only rock 'n' roll, but we launched it
When the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft completes its journey to Saturn's moon Titan in January, its probe will carry out many missions -- among them, to boldly blast rock 'n' roll music where none has been heard before.
The US-European vessel, run by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian space agency, is carrying a 14-minute CD loaded with music from two little-known French artists who will have the honour of having their tracks broadcast to any alien ears that may be listening.
Earthlings on the other hand will be able to bop along to the tunes on the Internet site www.music2titan.com from December 21 as they follow the mission online.
The French musicians, Julien Civange and Louis Haeri, got their compositions on board the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft when it was launched in 1997 after being contacted to provide a cultural aspect to the scientific endeavour.
"The ESA wanted to add artistic content to the mission, to leave some trace of humanity in the unknown and send a sign to any possible extraterrestrial populations," Civange told AFP.
"It's wicked!" the 33-year-old said, summing up the experience.
"When you create something, it's important to find new ways of expressing yourself. But this -- this is a totally vertical way of doing that."
The only condition the ESA put on the musicians was for them to come up with tracks that had no words.
The first, "Lalala", gives the basic chords of rock and was inspired by photos provided by ESA, Civange said.
The second track, "Bald James Deans", refers to the separation of the Cassini and Huygens probes on Christmas Eve, conjuring up dual visions of the US film icon speeding off in different directions in the stellar void.
The Huygens probe is to descend on to Titan's surface January 14 by parachute to carry out its experiments while the Cassini probe continues its fly-by of Saturn's 30-odd moons.
The third track on the CD, "Hot Time", is an artistic piece meant to reflect the exploration of Titan while the last tune, "No Love", channels Civange's preferred sci-fi author Philip K. Dick by evoking questions about what space travel means.
"What are we going to take out there? Our waste? Our fast-food? Our knowledge?" Civange asked.
For the musician, being associated with a real space mission is the realisation of a childhood dream.
Although Civange pursued a career that brought him into contact with band the Clash and then the formation, with Haeri, of his group La Place which opened for acts such as David Bowie and the Rolling Stones, the pull of the stars was always strong.
"The first step on the Moon, George Lucas and 'Star Wars' -- it's all the culture of the postwar generation.
"And it all comes back to the idea of a spatial exodus. One day, the Earth will be too small, too hostile, and we'll have to go elsewhere, like Man has always done in leaving glacial areas or moving to new continents."
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