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Brian May to serenade NASA spacecraft as it makes historic flyby

By | Published on Thursday 20 December 2018

Brian May

Queen guitarist and part-time astrophysicist Brian May has announced that he will release a new solo single on New Year’s Day. Titled ‘New Horizons’, May’s first solo release for two decades will mark the farthest ever flyby by a man-made spacecraft in history, which is when a space probe passes a planet or such like close enough to record scientific data.

The song will receive its premiere at NASA’s control centre at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Greenbelt, Maryland. It is from here that the New Horizons spacecraft has been controlled since its launch in 2006. On 1 Jan, it is due to pass an object in the Kuiper Belt on the edge of our solar system named Ultima Thune.

“This project has energised me in a new way”, says May. “For me it’s been an exciting challenge to bring two sides of my life together – astronomy and music”.

He continues: “It was Alan Stern, the Project Instigator of this amazing NASA mission, who threw down the glove last May. 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 spacecraft will beam back to Earth”.

“To me it epitomises the human spirit’s unceasing desire to understand the universe we inhabit”, he goes on. “Everyone who has devoted so much energy to this mission since its launch in January 2006 will be feeling they are actually inside that small but intrepid vehicle – only about the size of a grand piano – as it pulls off another spectacular close encounter. And through the vehicle’s ‘eyes’ we will begin to learn, for the very first time, what a Kuiper Belt Object is made of. And pick up precious clues about how our solar system was born”.

‘New Horizons’ was co-written with lyricist Don Black and also features the voice of Stephen Hawking. You can listen to a snippet of the song here, before the full track is unveiled on New Year’s Day.