Sagan, Vinyl, and Space: The Intersection of Science and Music

On July 2, Jack White, along with his record label Third Man Records, made history by successfully playing the first vinyl record in space—well, near the edge of space, approximately eighteen miles above the Earth. The Icarus Craft, a “space-proof” turntable, was designed by electronics consultant Kevin Carrico with help from SATINS (Students and Teachers in Near Space). The project took three years to complete, and after just an hour and twenty minutes, at a peak height of 94,413 feet, the craft’s balloon burst and the record player came floating gracefully to the ground.

The project marks the label’s seven-year anniversary. The record itself pays homage to the great Carl Sagan, who sent his own gold-plated audio recording into space on board the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. Sagan’s golden disk was intended to act as a sort of “visitor’s guide” to whoever might be roaming around space. In memory of Sagan’s golden disk, White included “A Glorious Dawn,” a 2009 Third Man Records musical rendition of a 1980 Carl Sagan monologue, on his own space-traveling record. For the project, White even consulted one of our other favorite scientists, Neil deGrasse Tyson. What a beautiful marriage between science and music! In White’s own words:

Our main goal from inception to completion of this project was to inject imagination and inspiration into the daily discourse of music and vinyl lovers. Combining our creative impulses with those of discovery and science is our passion, and even on the scale that we are working with here, it was exhilarating to decide to do something that hasn’t been done before and to work towards its completion. And, it brings us great fulfillment to pay tribute to the incredible scientist and dreamer that Carl Sagan was. We hope that in meeting our goal we inspire others to dream big and start their own missions, whatever they may be.

Not only is White fascinated by science and technology, he’s also passionate about equality and civil liberties. In 2009, White joined a forty-five member council dedicated to studying gender equity within the Nashville, Tennessee, metro area and to make recommendations to the mayor. White is also a philanthropist who donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to local Detroit, Michigan, music and recording venues though the National Recording Preservation Board. He also supports baseball parks and other institutions in the Detroit area. Carl Sagan? Equality? Philanthropy? You sure are starting to sound like a humanist, Jack White! But humanist or not, this project is pretty cool. Keep exploring!

The launch can be seen in its entirely here or embedded below.