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Apollo 10’s “Outer-Space-Type Music” Explained

The Apollo 10 CM "Charlie Brown" photographed from the LM "Snoopy" in lunar orbit (NASA)

The Apollo 10 CM “Charlie Brown” photographed from the LM “Snoopy” in lunar orbit (NASA)

There’s been some buzz recently (no pun intended, Mr. Aldrin) concerning supposed “space music” heard by Apollo 10 astronauts while they were traveling around the far side of the Moon in May of 1969. This is in no small part due to the season three opener of NASA’s Unexplained Files* on the Science Channel, which aired on Feb. 23 and featured a rather dramatic recap of said event.

Long story short, as Apollo 10 passed behind the Moon during day 5 of the mission on May 22, 1969, it was blocked from any communication with the Earth for well over an hour. During that time the astronauts—Tom Stafford, Gene Cernan, and John Young—noted hearing some curious sounds in their headsets, likened to “outer-space-type music.” Hesitant about sharing this unanticipated discovery with Mission Control (astronauts were a notoriously competitive lot and didn’t readily elect to divulge errors in perception) it was kept quiet until they returned to Earth, after which time the recorded in-flight transcripts were filed and stored…and were never digitized for the web until 2012. This led many conspiracy groups to claim that the recordings were kept hidden from the public and are evidence of some sort of alien encounter on the lunar farside… although anyone who listens to the sounds now should be able to tell what they really are. (And no, it’s not alien Muzak.)

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