Forty-seven years ago, astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission heard some strange music while flying over the far side of the moon. But it wasn’t exactly the Beatles, and not everyone is convinced the strange sounds were anything truly unusual.
The case of the strange moon music was discussed on an episode of NASA’s Unexplained Files, which airs on the Science Channel. The episode discussed the Apollo 10 mission, which flew before the much more famous Apollo 11 flight two months later and served as a dress rehearsal for the historic moon landing, Fox News reported.
Three astronauts served as crew on the mission — Tom Stafford, John Young, and Eugene Cernan — and conversations those men had in May 1969, while above the far side of the moon and out of contact with Earth, were classified until 2008.
In fact, after hearing the so-called music, the men debated whether or not to even utter a word about it to NASA. According to CNN, the men worried that if they told their superiors they heard something impossible, like music, on the moon, then they may not be considered for spaceflight in the future.
And all this time later, no one really knows what happened. They have theories, however.
To prepare for Apollo 11, Apollo 10 flew to the moon and into lunar orbit, then traveled within 5,000 feet of the surface. As the astronauts lost radio communication with Earth while soaring past the far side of the moon, something strange started happening and lasted a full hour, the Huffington Post added.
The astronauts heard a strange “whistling sound,” which on the recording, Cernan imitates as “Whoooooo.”
“It sounds like, you know, outer space-type music.”
“You hear that? That whistling sound? Whooooooooo!”
“Well, that sure is weird music!”
The men indicated that they had never heard music like that before.
“The Apollo 10 crew was very used to the kind of noise that they should be hearing,” said Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden on the show. “Logic tells me that if there was something recorded on there, then there was something there… 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?”
Others aren’t so sure, offering a pretty dull and disappointing explanation for what caused the mysterious moon music. A NASA tech speculated on the show that “radios in the two spacecraft [the lunar module and the command module] were interfering with each other.”
This is a theory Michael Collins, who piloted Apollo 11 and was the first to fly around the moon’s dark, distant side, seemed to believe himself. He heard similar music as Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong performed their moon walk and wrote about it in his book Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys.
“There is a strange noise in my headset now, an eerie woo-woo sound. Had I not been warned about it, it would have scared the hell out of me (…) fortunately the radio technicians (rather than the UFO fans) had a ready explanation for it: it was interference between the LM’s and Command Module’s VHF radios.”
The noise started when the vehicles’ radios were turned on and placed next to each other; it stopped when the lunar module landed.
As for Stafford, Young, and Cernan, it looks as though they never did talk about the moon music with NASA, though the recordings were transcribed, archived, and classified by Mission Control, which is standard procedure. It’s not clear if they ever heard the music again when they returned to the moon, either. Young flew back and walked on its surface during Apollo 16, Cernan commanded Apollo 17 and was the last man to walk on the moon, and Stafford never went back though did fly in space again.
While the mysterious music has its skeptics, Worden is keeping an open mind.
“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 … 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.”
[Photo by NASA/Getty Images]