Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has a penchant for song. In between spates of research onboard the International Space Station, Hadfield would occasionally kick off his shoes, take out an acoustic guitar, and stare directly into the gaze of a video camera. Broadcasting these musical activities on social media fashioned Hadfield a kind of astro-celebrity in the later stages of his career.
In May 2013, Hadfield recorded his cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” in zero-gravity. Here’s a video for the song, first released in 1969:
While already an era-defining opus — Bowie’s epic song about transcending the traditional boundaries of life and journeying beyond — was given a visceral weight by Hadfield’s space-dwelling performance.
Hadfield’s cover of “Space Oddity” was an homage to Bowie, an artist whose career defied a traditional pop-music narrative, a performer who created art as if the laws of gravity had no bearing on expression. When Hadfield uploaded the video to YouTube, it was a nice treat and bit of entertainment from the astronaut-cum-performer. But watching it now, with the news of Bowie’s passing, it carries a slight poignancy.
Hadfield isn’t the only astronaut understandably saddened by Bowie’s death: NASA’s Lunar Reconnoissance Orbiter Twitter account expressed condolences earlier this morning. It was NASA’s LRO that reminded the internet of Hadfield’s song, as you can see:
Any beings traversing the cosmos looking to pay tribute to Ziggy Stardust might have a hard time shedding any justifiable tears, because as Hadfield pointed out in another video, you can’t cry in space, no matter how good the reason.