Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth. Launched in 1957, it was about as big as a beach ball, weighed less than 100kg and completed a revolution in around 98 minutes. The beeping sound you can hear is the radio signal that Sputnik 1 emitted – coming through loud and clear!
Quindar: Sound #1
Until not so long ago, communications between mission control and astronauts would contain high-pitched beeps known as ‘Quindar tones’. Pressing the ‘push-to-talk’ button in the control room generated a first tone, which was followed by the voice of the Capsule Communicator (‘CAPCOM’). A second tone signalled the release of the button, allowing the astronauts to talk back.
Mercury 7: Liftoff
Project Mercury, which ran between 1958 and 1963, was NASA’s first ‘man-in-space program’. This clip was recorded during the launch of the Mercury-Atlas 7 mission that sent astronaut M. Scott Carpenter into orbit around the Earth in 1962.
What is NASA?
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is a branch of the United States federal government whose aim is to pioneer advances in human spaceflight, aeronautics, space science and space applications.
NASA has been responsible for missions such as Apollo, the Hubble Space Telescope, International Space Station, Juno: Mission at Jupiter, Kepler Spacecraft and Voyager.
From lunar landings to exploring the Universe over 17 billion km away, NASA has broadened our understanding of space and our own planet.
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Delta IV: Launch
The Delta family of rockets is used to transport communications, weather and science satellites into orbit. The rockets are referred to as ‘expendable launch systems’ because each one is designed to be used only once. Here you can hear the formidable roar of Delta IV’s engines.
Chorus Radio Waves within Earth’s Atmosphere
Although these sounds recall birdsong, they don’t come from the surface of the Earth. This is a natural phenomenon known as ‘chorus’, caused by plasma waves in the belt of energetic charged particles surrounding the Earth. In 2012, NASA launched two probes to study this region, and it was these that captured this chorus of radio waves. Find out more here.
Cassini: Saturn Radio Emissions #1
The Cassini spacecraft went into orbit around Saturn in 2004, on a mission to study the gas giant’s rings, magnetosphere and moons. It can also detect the ringed planet’s radio emissions, linked to aurorae near Saturn’s poles. Once the emissions are shifted to audible frequencies, the result is what you hear in this clip.
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Voyager: Interstellar Plasma Sounds
Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 and its companion Voyager 2 were only originally intended to study Jupiter and Saturn, but they’re both still going strong today. A major breakthrough came in 2012 when Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to enter interstellar space. Here, Voyager 1 detected plasma waves – responsible for the isolated high-pitched sounds you can hear in this recording.
Kepler: Star KIC7671081B Light Curve Waves to Sound
The Kepler space observatory was designed to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars, and during its lifecycle it discovered over 2,600 of these exoplanets. Kepler detects exoplanets using the transit method, which looks for the dip in a star’s light as a planet passes in front of it. In this clip, you’re listening to the light curve for one particular star, converted into sound waves.
Press to ATO
ATO stands for ‘Abort to Orbit’. This emergency Space Shuttle procedure was performed if the spacecraft was unable to reach the planned orbit, but could opt for an alternative stable orbit instead. Space Shuttle Discovery completed 39 successful flights between 1984 and 2011, and is now on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Centre in Virginia, US.
Apollo 13: Houston, We’ve Had a Problem
Apollo 13 was supposed to be the third manned mission to the Moon, but around 56 hours after launch, one of the craft’s oxygen tanks exploded. Although the crew – Fred Haise, James Lovell and Jack Swigert – didn’t make it to the Moon, they did survive the scare and returned safely to Earth a few days later.
- Browse NASA’s full collection of sound clips here.
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