When you're arguably the best-known astronaut ever to spend a stretch on the International Space Station, what better way to commemorate your ending tenure than recording David Bowie's Space Oddity while in orbit? Commander Chris Hadfield, who returns to Earth along with Thomas H. Marshburn and Roman Romanenko late on Monday, May 13, recorded his own version of the classic from the ISS, complete with lingering views of Earth and almost as much lens-flare as a Star Trek reboot.
Hadfield recorded the vocals and guitar track on the space station, with his son Evan - who has been managing his father's social media accounts while the astronaut is in orbit - producing the video. The musical accompaniment was arranged and recorded on Earth too; after less than a day, the video already has more than half a million views on YouTube.
Although the ISS has always been used as an outreach platform to engage students and others with space exploration, Hadfield has arguably made the niche his own during his six month stay. His use of social media like Facebook and Twitter, posting photos of Earth and the view from the space station, as well as answering science questions such as what happens to wet cloths when rung out in zero-gravity, have already made him a celebrity.
Part of that process has involved giving those back on Earth a view of their planet seldom seen. Equipped with a high-powered camera, and taking advantage of Google+ Hangouts and other opportunities to reach larger audiences, the astronaut has made building enthusiasm about NASA and its work just as important as the more traditional scientific experiments and maintenance undertaken onboard the fifteen year old station.
As for Bowie himself, he posted the video on his official Facebook page, and pointed out that Emm Gryner - who arranged the piano part for Hadfield's recording - was in fact part of the official Bowie live band in 1999-2000. "I was mostly blown away by how pure and earnest Chris' singing is on this track" Gryner writes of the collaboration, "like weightlessness and his voice agreed to agree."
Hadfield and the rest of the Expedition 35 team officially handed over command of the ISS to Expedition 36 on Sunday, May 12, led by Commander Pavel Vinogradov. NASA will be live-streaming the return process from 3:30pm ET on Monday.