Jack White just went were no man has gone before: the Nashville rocker successfully played a vinyl record in space for the first time.
Using a “space-proof” turntable attached to a high-altitude balloon, White launched a gold-plated 12-inch master of Carl Sagan’s “A Glorious Dawn” into the outer limits of Earth. The vessel tasked with the mission — The Icarus Craft — was designed by former NASA member Kevin Carrico in collaboration with SATINS (Students and Teachers in Near Space). According to White’s Third Man Records, the Icarus Craft ascended 94,413 feet above earth in under 90 minutes.
White first mentioned his plans for the “space vinyl” back in a 2012 interview with Interview Magazine. At the time, he was still trying to “figure out a way to drop the needle with all that turbulence up there and ensure that it will still play.” At one point, he even sought the assistance of renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
“A Glorious Dawn”, taken from Sagan’s 1980 television Cosmo series, was pressed by Third Man in 2009 in honor of the scientist’s 75th birthday. The vinyl includes an etching of the diagram found on the Voyager Golden Record, which Sagan himself worked on.
Update: Third Man Records has shared behind the scenes details. The launch itself actually took place on July 2nd after receiving approval from the FAA and FCC. The vessel used a “sturdy phono cartridge and stylus as well as an onboard flight computer programmed with a few different actions to keep the record playing while it was safe to do so.” The record was still spinning even after the vessel’s landing.
In a statement, Jack said, “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.“
Below, watch a short recap documentary on the Icarus Craft along with a full replay of its voyage.