- NASA’s mission head Alan Stern asked May to record a special track
- May was given permission by Stephen Hawking’s family to use audio snippets
- Dr May also holds a doctorate in astrophysics, and attended Mission Control
- The single was first played by NASA as the flyby occurs
He may be better known as Queen’s lead guitarist, but Dr Brian May also holds a doctorate in astrophysics – and today revealed a song he wrote after being asked by NASA to support its latest historic mission.
‘We’re off to New Horizons so hold on to the wheel’, he sings in the rare solo song, which was first played as the craft passed Ultima Thule – an object a billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, last night.
May was at Mission Control for the event, and today released the track New Horizons, his first solo single since 1998, on YouTube.
Scroll down to listen to the track
The ‘New Horizons’ track (Ultima Thule mix), had its global premiere broadcast live on January 1 at 12.02am EST (5.02am GMT) from the New Horizons control Center in Maryland, USA, at the moment when the historic Ultima Thule encounter is confirmed.
‘This project has energised me in a new way,’ May said.
For me it’s been an exciting challenge to bring two sides of my life together – Astronomy and Music.’
May says Alan Stern, the Project Instigator of the NASA Mission, who approached him in May about writing a special song.
‘He asked if I could come up with a theme for Ultima Thule which could be played as the NH probe reached this new destination.’
‘I was inspired by the idea that this is the furthest that the Hand of Man has ever reached – it will be by far the most distant object we have ever seen at close quarters, through the images which the space craft will beam back to Earth.
‘To me it epitomises the human spirit’s unceasing desire to understand the Universe we inhabit. ‘
Scientists do not yet have a clear picture of exactly what Ultima Thule is, whether a single object or a cluster, spanning about 19 miles (30 kilometers) in diameter.
Portions of the wailing guitar track, overlaid with the voice of the late legendary scientist Stephen Hawking, are available on www.brianmay.com.
New Horizons completed a successful flyby of Pluto three years ago, and returned stunning images of the dwarf planet.
May joined Jubilant NASA scientists celebrating this morning after confirmation their New Horizons probe has reached the solar system’s outermost region, flying close to a space rock 20 miles long and billions of miles from Earth on a mission to gather clues about the creation of the solar system.
The New Horizons probe was slated to reach the ‘third zone’ in the uncharted heart of the Kuiper Belt at 12:33 a.m. this morning ET – but NASA did not receive confirmation it was a success until 10:31am.
Alice Bowman, the New Horizons Mission Operations Manager, known as ‘MOM’ received the updates from mission engineers, who one by one called in their status as green.
‘We have a healthy spacecraft, we have just completed the most distant flyby,’ she said.