Brian May, lead guitarist of legendary rock band Queen,
released his first single in almost 20 years for an intergalactic cause — NASA’s New Horizons mission, which recently conducted its closest flyby to the most distant object visited by humankind, Ultima Thule.
“This is probably going to be hard because I can’t think of anything that rhymes with Ultima Thule,” May said at a news conference Dec. 31. The name means “beyond the known world.”
But he found a way. May released his new song, “New Horizons (Ultima Thule Mix)” at 12:02 a.m. ET New Year’s Day on NASA TV for the world to hear. The spacecraft flew past the planetesimal at 12:33 a.m., but teams wouldn’t know about the mission’s success until hours later.
“My song, my track, my anthem became about the human spirit endeavoring to discover the universe,” May said.
Aside from putting on a show, May, who is also an astrophysicist, made his own contributions as a participating scientist on the New Horizons project. He’s worked with the team since the small spacecraft hurtled past Pluto in 2015, during which he helped create stereo images. By putting two similar images together on a stereo card, viewers can see as the images pop up in 3D through a stereoscope.
May also hopes to develop stereo images of Ultima Thule, if possible.
Over the next 20 months, scientists will study data transmitted by New Horizons to help understand the geological features and composition of Ultima Thule and answer key questions about how our solar system formed.
“This mission represents more to me than the mission itself,” May said. “It actually represents to me the spirit of adventure and discovery and inquiry, which is inherent in the human spirit.”
NASA Flight controllers said everything looked good for New Horizons’ flyby of Ultima Thule, 4 billion miles from Earth early Tuesday. Scientists celebrated in Maryland, joined by Queen guitarist Brian May, who is also an astrophysicist. (Jan. 1)
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