Hits from the Gale Crater: Curiosity’s playlist…

So they’re updating Curiosity’s software over the next few days for ground operations, replacing the EDL-optimised software. Given how much of a personality NASA/JPL are giving curiosity in their facebook & twitter feeds, I figured they may as well send up a few mp3s while they’re at it. Here’s my top ten tracks for Martian roving. Feel free to add yours…

10. Life on MarsDavid Bowie

Obvious really. Evidence for life, even historic life, is the holy grail of the mission. Discovering actual spiders from Mars, while unlikely, would simultaneously provide final proof of Bowie’s extraterrestrial origins. However the song doesn’t get any higher than #10 because Curiosity would likely expend valuable time and processor resources trying to figure out how exactly “Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow”.

9. The Planets – Gustav Holst

Again fairly obvious, with a nice pedigree and suitably epic, given the surroundings. The actual Mars movement is a little, well… martial for fairly obvious reasons, but the most popular, the Jupiter section, (linked above), is an excellent morning-wake-up track for a probe on a planet that’s -100 degrees before dawn, and no coffee.

It also resembles the Thunderbirds theme on steroids, which again…fairly appropriate.

8. Surfin’ Safari  – The Beach Boys

It’s basically a two-year road trip this mission, and nothing gets your six wheels rolling like popping in the Boys and rolling the top down. Or, y’know, stowing your mast….

7. King of the Road – Roger Miller

Once you’re rolling though, there’s going to be a bit of a sense of drudgery. After all, there is no ocean at the end of this beach, or even a gas station attendant to wipe the dust off your navcam. So what better song could there be to acknowledge your hardship and loneliness while still putting a spring in your suspension?  Can’t beat it for a singalong, either…

6. Surfin with the Alien – Joe Satriani

If there are any aliens, this’ll flush the little buggers out. Another great road song, particularly if you’re tearing it up at 1.5 inches per second down a dune field in a six-wheel drift, banging your mast cameras and throwing a goat with your robotic arm.

5. Chain Gang – Sam Cooke

If you’re not driving though, you’re digging. Sample after sample.

After sample after sample after sample after sample after sample, until you’ve used up every last watt-second and your masters finally let you shut down.

4. Spaceship Landing – Kyuss

When it all gets too much, all the loneliness, the science homework, the existential despair, Curiosity can swivel the high-gain antenna away from her folks back on earth, crank up the masters of desert metal and just stare at the vast and empty landscape for 15 minutes. I’m pretty sure she didn’t get sneak any weed up there, what with all the cameras, but you never know…and if she gets caught, she can always blame it on this guy…

Bobak Ferdowski, aka “NASA Mohawk Guy”

3. Hotel California/Take it Easy – The Eagles

In space, nobody can hear your secret cheesy guilty pleasure.

Plus Curiosity is going to have a special affinity with  the lyrics – “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” And as for Take it Easy, well…considering Curiosity’s own metal frame is the most effective medium for transporting soundwaves within 80 million kilometres, the line:

Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy…

…is just sound advice.

2. The Blue Danube – Johann Strauss

Bringing it back to classical thinking of the sun sinking below the horizon…followed by Phobos, Deimos, and the Earth itself, and it’s just you in the darkness with the celestial spheres. There’s Mars Orbiter twinkling overhead… the fastest moving object in the waltz of infinity. A little nod to Kubrick, of course.

Just as long as Curiosity doesn’t start singing “Daisy, Daisy”.

1. The War of the Worlds – Jeff Wayne

Payback time.

But seriously…textured, layered, epic narrative, Richard bloody Burton… if you had to have only one album for a two-year mission, you could do a lot worse than this.

Mind you, you’d be looking over your shoulder…


Any other suggestions it’d be great to hear them. That’s what comments are for. Promise I’ll respond, and tell you you’re crazy. Or a genius. Or both.

Once we get it finalised we can send it through to JPL and they can use their iTunes account. They’ve got the money.

With thanks to my friend @tindrum1 for the inspiration for this post – and the #1 in particular.


One thought on “Hits from the Gale Crater: Curiosity’s playlist…

  1. Pingback: How not to be cool, NASA-style… | Watching with Curiosity

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