Third Man Records, founded by famous musician Jack White has just become the first company to ever play a vinyl record, on a turntable, in space. The 80-minute long recording, consisting of a mix of composer John Boswell’s A Glorious Dawn and audio clips of Carl Sagan, was sent to space using a high-altitude balloon.
“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,” White told The Guardian.
“We hope that in meeting our goal we inspire others to dream big and start their own missions, whatever they may be.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve sent a record to space — that distinction belongs to the 1977 Voyager mission. But those records are meant for another, more alien, audience. Really, it’s meant for aliens. This is the first time we’ve sent vinyls to space for no other reason than to play them.
Now, turntables aren’t made to survive in the harshness of space — surprising, I know. So White and his colleagues had to find a special container that could protect it and the record on their adventure. They turned to Kevin Carrico, and engineer whose father worked on NASA’s Viking missions.
Carrico spent the past three years designing the Icarus Craft, a container designed to carry a gold-covered vinyl record to the outer limit of the Earth’s atmosphere using a high-altitude balloon. Gold was used to keep the record cool, as Carrico explains:
“As you rise higher and higher into the thinning atmosphere, temperature and increasing vacuum (lack of air) can cause issues,” Carrico said.
“Vinyl has a rather low melting point (71°C/160°F) and without air to keep things cool, you could wind up with a lump of melted plastic on your hands if a record is exposed to the sun for too long.”
The record played for 80 minutes, after which the Icarus eventually crashed in a vineyard. The team reports that the record was still spinning when they finally recovered it.
“Once the return to Earth began (with the craft attached to a parachute and falling about 4x faster than it rose), the turntable automatically went into ‘turbulence mode’, where the record continued to spin, but the tone arm was triggered to lift from the record surface and stay in its locked position, to protect both the needle and the record itself,” the team says on their YouTube Channel.
“When Icarus reached the ground – a vineyard, to be exact – the record still spun, unfazed by its incredible journey.”
You see the vinyl’s journey and its historic playback in this video Third Man Records put together: