Music

The 2024 Moon Landing Placed Music By Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Elvis & More on the Lunar Surface

A lot of history was made last Thursday (Feb. 22) when the Odysseus space craft landed on earth’s moon. Not only did it mark the first time a private lander made lunar touchdown, but it saw an American craft return to the moon for the first time since 1972. Billboard can now reveal that the lunar lander made musical history as well, bringing digitized recordings from some of the most iconic musicians of all time to an arts-centric time capsule that’s currently sitting on the moon’s silent surface.

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Filmmaker Michael P. Nash, whose acclaimed 2010 documentary Climate Refugees put a human face on climate change and is included in this lunar capsule, describes it as a “future ancient cave drawing” of sorts (his film is the sole documentary in this lunar payload). “In case we blow ourselves up with a nuclear weapon or a meteor hits us or climatic change wipes us out, there’s a testament of our history sitting on the moon,” he says.

This lunar art museum spans millennia, reaching all the way back to a Sumerian cuneiform fragment of musical notation up to modern-day beats by Timbaland. The digitized lunar archive includes material from 20th century icons Elvis Presley, Marvin Gaye, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Sly & the Family Stone, Bob Marley, Janis Joplin, The Who and many more, as well as photos of everything from Woodstock to album art (naturally, a photo of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon is included) in a glass, nickel and NanoFiche structure built to last millions of, if not a billion, years.

“This is music that stands the test of time,” says Dallas Santana, who came up with the idea of sending 222 artists to the moon and pitched it to the Arch Mission Foundation. Working with Galactic Legacy Labs, Space Blue (Santana’s company) curated the payload, which was affixed to the Intuitive Machines-built craft (that company had no creative input on this payload’s contents, nor did SpaceX, which launched the lander). Space Blue formed a partnership with Nash’s Beverly Hills Productions and Melody Trust — a company that owns the rights to some masters from a number of classic rock artists — for the purposes of this enterprise, appropriately titling it Lunar Records.

The archive from Melody Trust, which Santana says is about 25,000 songs deep, includes unreleased recordings from some of these musical legends, according to Santana. “Songs that have never been released, ever — they’re on the moon now,” he says, tipping to purportedly unreleased recordings of Hendrix captured prior to the formation of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. As a huge Hendrix fan, he says he was “immediately skeptical” about them at first but was pleasantly surprised to be wrong about them after months of “due diligence and analysis” from his advisors. “The world will find out about them,” he promises.

The Lunaprise Storage System/Discs

As the curator of the musical moon museum, Santana says music from 1969 and artists who played Woodstock are a focal point of this collection for several reasons. On July 20, 1969, humans set foot on the moon for the time; just weeks later, the Summer of Love reached its pinnacle when 460,000 people gathered at the Woodstock Music Festival in a spirit of peaceful togetherness he hopes this capsule will evoke. Santana admits there’s a bit of historical irony here: many musicians of that generation pressured the U.S. government to stop spending money on lunar landings in favor of solving terrestrial problems, which was a part of the reason NASA suspended moon missions in 1972. Now, some of those artists are enshrined on the moon for up to a billion years.

While the Space Blue founder has previously teased an arts-centric payload on this mission, he specifically kept the names of the musicians known to a select few. “NASA doesn’t know – SpaceX doesn’t know yet,” he says. “Elon Musk is the greatest rocketeer of all time, we’re grateful for his company. When we decided to have conversations about musicians last year, we thought it was not appropriate to bring to it to his attention what we were going to do. And musicians were concerned about that. They said, ‘Does Elon Musk have anything to do with deciding what musicians go up there?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely not, this is a private payload.’”

He hopes the lunar payload – which also includes plenty of non-musical artistic achievements, including paintings by Rembrandt and Van Gogh – will “resurrect” the spirit of the Woodstock generation. “We need peace on the earth right now. We’ve brought to the moon the Summer of Love, the people and artists and messages that are needed on earth right now.”

The inclusion of Nash’s Climate Refugees documentary in the lunar art museum acknowledges another pressing concern facing us earthlings – climate change and the mass migration that’s likely to ensue. With an eye on what’s next, Nash is beginning to work on a sequel film called Chasing Truth. “My partners are Leonardo DiCaprio, his father, George DiCaprio, and the VoLo Foundation. We’re going back around the world to update this,” he says.

“Both Leonardo and George are very clear this needs to be a solution-oriented film, more utopian than dystopian. This is going to give solutions,” Nash promises. “We’ve passed the point of changing lightbulbs – but that’s really important. There are power in numbers. Become part of something bigger than you. It’s going to take everybody to move us past this tsunami headed our way.”

After this mission, Lunar Records intends to continue rising. They are eying other lunar payloads of a similar nature, and even talking about placing an arts museum on Mars if a Martian landing comes to pass – meaning that Mars’ igneous rocks may have to make room for a new kind of rock before too long.

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