Summer festivals? No, the most epic onstage moment for this summer has to be Kraftwerk jamming live with the International Space Station – and an iPad as the first electronic musical instrument in space.
Take a look (German-language text with English-language subtitles) – and spot the riff from Close Encounters:
In front of a crowd gathered in Stuttgart, Gerst announces from the international space outpost:
I am one of only six people in space, on the outpost of humanity, the International Space Station ISS, 400 kilometers above sea level. The ISS is a Man Machine – the most complex and valuable machine humankind has ever built.
Here in the European Columbus laboratory, the successor to the Spacelab, the European Space Agency ESA is researching things that will improve daily life on Earth. More than 100 different nations work together peacefully here and achieve things that a single nation could never achieve. We are developing technologies on board the ISS to grow beyond our current horizons and prepare to take further steps into space, to the Moon and Mars.
The app is Lemur, the landmark touch control app, with another soft synth behind it making the sound.
The venue is the Jazz Open Festival, with a crowd of 7500 people in Stuttgart. (Hence the cheers as a UFO flies above the TV tower in the city.)
Dr. Alexander Gerst is a geophysicist as well as astronaut. This is his third mission to the ISS, and puts him in space from 6 June to the middle of December, 2018, as commander of the space station. That makes him only the second ESA astronaut to take command, after Frank de Winne on Expedition 21. (The latter I’ve had the pleasure to have dinner with, thanks to ESA. I asked him about sound, of course. His answer: the space station is almost deafeningly loud, not perhaps the soft purr you have in mind after watching Star Trek: The Next Generation – the Russian section being loudest of all, because of particular equipment it stores. They also use sound as one diagnostic for how equipment is working, though.)
Plus if you’ve seen The Martian, the character of Alex Vogel draws some elements from the real-life Dr. Gerst.
Kraftwerk of course had their own track “Spacelab” (1978). The name comes from a research laboratory developed in the 1970s as a joint project between NASA and European Space agency predecessor ESRO. ESA tells us that the environment Commander Gerst is in now, ESA’s Columbus laboratory module, is a direct descendant of that project. It’s a massive 75 cubic meters (well, massive when you’re launching that into space), packed with research equipment handling space science, Earth observation and technology, materials science, and more.
Gerst had a special tailor-made suite of software created for him on that iPad.
And so what you get is a convergence of science and culture, all in the European sphere.
More on the ESA-hosted blog for the astronaut:
Good evening, Kraftwerk! Alexander Gerst’s Horizons Blog
from Create Digital Music http://bit.ly/2mB4bEc