As the Apollo 10 spacecraft flew around the far side of the moon in 1969, radio communications with mission control were cut off for about an hour. But rather than hearing silence, the astronauts aboard the spacecraft heard something else entirely.
“You hear that? That whistling sound?” asked astronaut Eugene Cernan.
“Sounds like—you know, outer-space-type music,” he later said.
The odd celestial and questionably “extraterrestrial” occurrence will be featured on the Science Channel television show “NASA’s Unexplained Files.” The episode premieres tonight at 10 p.m. EST.
News of the Apollo 10 audio and transcripts set the media abuzz Monday. To clarify, the NASA History Office tweeted that the audio and transcripts “were not classified.” There was “just no way to get them to the public before the Internet.”
The Science Channel has released close to six minutes of the outer space portion of the show on YouTube.
Prior to radio communications coming back online, the crew discussed whether to relay the experience to mission control. They never discussed the occurrence publicly.
According to planetary scientist Kevin Grazier, who was interviewed for the program, the Cassini spacecraft picked up similar signals from Saturn. “These are caused by charged particles moving through Saturn’s magnetic environment,” Grazier said during his interview. However, he noted the moon wouldn’t emit such sounds because it doesn’t have an atmosphere or a magnetic field.
Space historian and author Andrew Chaikin, who was also interviewed for the program, posits that the seemingly extraterrestrial space noise actually originated from radio interference between the lunar module and the command module.
But astronaut Alfred Worden, who was aboard the Apollo 15 mission, expressed skepticism. “I suspect there’s a very, very clear cause of what they heard on Apollo 10, which maybe we haven’t uncovered yet. I just think we don’t understand it,” he said in his interview.
According to CNN, astronaut Michael Collins, the pilot on Apollo 11 and the first person to fly around the moon’s far side alone, also reported hearing strange noises. But radio technicians previously notified him the sound was caused by radio interference. Collins said the noise started when the two vehicles, the lunar and command modules, were close to one another, but stopped once the lunar module landed on the moon’s surface.
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