While orbiting the dark side of the moon during their 1969 voyage, Apollo 10 astronauts Tom Stafford, John Young, and Eugene Cernan described hearing unusual “outer-space type” music, and now, nearly four decades later, NASA has finally released audio of those sounds.
Transcripts of the conversation where Young and Cernan discussed hearing a “whistling sound” while on the far side of the moon, beyond the range of Earth-based radio transmissions, had been released eight years ago, according to CNN.com. However, a recording of their discussion and a clip of the mysterious sound itself is only now being released to the general public.
On the recording, Cernan is heard asking Young if he heard a “whistling sound.” Young replied that it was “weird music” and sounded like “outer-space type music” as Cernan pondered what it might have been, and what could have caused it. The event was so bizarre that the team had even wondered whether or not they should let their NASA superiors know about it, CNN said.
The noise continued through nearly the entire hour that the capsule spend on the far side of the moon, and according to the Daily Mail, the recording was shelved by NASA until 2008, when it was declassified and the transcript was released. Now the recording itself has resurfaced, thanks to an upcoming episode of the Science Channel program NASA’s Unexplained Files.
So just what was that ‘outer-space’ music, anyway?
To get the obvious joke out of the way: No, it wasn’t Pink Floyd – as the Daily Mail pointed out, Dark Side of The Moon wasn’t even released until 1973. So just what was this otherworldly song that Cernan, Young, and Stafford heard. Is it proof of alien life or advanced lunar civilizations?
Sadly, no. As is often the case when it comes to “unexplained” phenomena like this, it turns out that there’s a rather easy explanation for it. On the TV show, a NASA technician explained that the noise is nothing more than “radios in the two spacecraft [the lunar module and the command module] were interfering with each other” and producing the whistling sound.
Of course, not everyone buys that explanation. As Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden said during the broadcast, “The Apollo 10 crew was very used to the kind of noise that they should be hearing. Logic tells me that if there was something recorded on there, then there was something there.”
The program offers another possible explanation – that interference from a magnetic field or the atmosphere might have caused the sound – before allowing experts to promptly shoot both of the theories down by pointing out that the moon lacks a magnetic field and does not have enough of an atmosphere to cause such issues to occur.
However, Apollo 11 pilot Michael Collins backs the official explanation, according to CNN. He said that he heard similar noises while in orbit around the moon, but gave it little thought because he had been forewarned that it could happen. Were he not prepared, “it would have scared the hell out of me,” he said. “Fortunately the radio technicians… had a ready explanation for it: It was interference between the LM’s and Command Module’s VHF radios,” Collins said, noting that the sound only began when both radios had been turned on and the vehicles were in close proximity to one another.
Feature Image: The Apollo 10 command module Charlie Brown is seen from the lunar module Snoopy after separation in lunar orbit. Credit: NASA