To commemorate the passing of the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, fans, celebrities, and politicians shared their personal memories with the legendary singer on Twitter. While fans remembered some of her greatest achievements — her voice, her activism, her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, her Presidential Medal of Freedom, and her 18 Grammy awards to name a few — NASA shared a lesser-known fact about the Queen that solidifies her place among the stars.
Not long after news of Franklin’s hospice care was made public, her publicist announced that the legendary singer died on Thursday at her home in Detroit. The 76-year-old icon was fighting an advanced stage of pancreatic cancer. Soon after Franklin’s death was announced, NASA shared its own homage to the soul singer, pointing to the main-belt asteroid named after her that continues its orbit past Mars.
“We’re saddened by the loss of Aretha Franklin. Asteroid 249516 Aretha, found by our NEOWISE mission and named after the singer to commemorate the #QueenOfSoul, will keep orbiting beyond Mars,” the space agency tweeted.
The NEOWISE project was NASA’s asteroid-hunting portion of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission, which developed an archive of previously unrecorded asteroids and their measurements between 2009 and 2011. Among the estimated 158,000 minor planets the mission recorded for the space agency (although that number has been contested) one beaming asteroid stood out as a candidate to represent Aretha Franklin’s earth-shattering voice and cosmic radiance. Asteroid 249516, which was discovered on February 15, 2010, was named Aretha as a celebration of the singer.
Stars and asteroids aren’t the only celestial beings mourning the loss of the Queen of Soul. NASA’s official Twitter page for information about Earth’s moon went so far as to tweet a tribute… from the perspective of the moon.
“Rock Steady Aretha,” the moon allegedly told NASA. “From your steady rock out in space.” While the dedication may seem unusual from the space agency, it provided an opportunity to listen to “Rock Steady,” an Aretha classic from her 1972 album Young, Gifted, and Black.
Aretha Franklin’s place among the stars was already confirmed, but it’s a fitting tribute that NASA reminded fans just how far her influence extends into the universe.