Mysterious Apollo 10 'outer-space' music? We have the answer
Sunday, February 21, 2016, 4:35 PM - During the Apollo 10 mission in May of 1969, astronauts reportedly heard weird "outer-space-type" music. Is this really an unexplained NASA mystery or just a minor technical note in the history of human space exploration?
While flying around the far side of the Moon, deep in radio silence from Earth and Mission Control, Apollo 10 astronauts Tom Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan reported hearing strange noises.
The three were in the middle of a practice run of the rendezvous maneuver between the Lunar Module and the Command Module, testing out the procedure for the upcoming Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, when "weird," "eerie," "outer-space-type music" was heard coming over the radios of both modules.
A view of the Apollo 10 Command/Service Module (CSM), from the Lunar Module (LM), on May 22, 1969. Credit: NASA, Project Apollo Archive.
This transcript from Lunar Module recordings contains the first mention of this "music" (left panel), and then the trio of astronauts continues discussing it roughly 4 minutes later (right panel). Credit: NASA
What was this strange music coming in over their radios?
In a new episode of NASA's Unexplained Files, airing on The Science Channel today, Feb 21, 2016, it is suggested that this an ongoing mystery, from "lost tapes" from the Apollo 10 mission, which have only recently been uncovered and declassified.
Undoubtedly, this has sparked speculation about aliens and cover-ups, however, despite the hype, there is really no mystery here.
Although the "music" may have seemed "eerie" and "outer-spacey," it actually originated from the very spaceships that the astronauts were piloting.
As astronaut Michael Collins wrote 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. Stafford's Apollo 10 crew had first heard it, during their practice rendezvous around the Moon. Alone on the back side, they were more than a little surprised to hear a noise that John Young in the Command Module and Stafford in the LM each denied making. They gingerly mentioned it in their debriefing sessions, but 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. We heard it yesterday when we turned our VHF radios on after separating the two vehicles, and Neil said that it 'sounds like wind whipping around the trees.' It stopped as soon as the LM got on the ground, and started up again just a short time ago. A strange noise in a strange place.
As you can read below, from Apollo 11 transcripts from just two months later, Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong noticed the noise too, but rightly dismissed it as radio noise.
Apollo 11 transcripts. Credit: NASA
So, while it is certainly unusual to hear strange eerie noises - reminiscent of the science fiction movies and television shows of the time - this was simply an issue with the radios they were using, rather than some kind of mysterious alien signal.
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