Fifty years ago Tuesday (12 April) cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. He launched not just himself and science into an era of discovery and accomplishment but also generations of imaginations and artistic efforts. Astronaut Cady Coleman aboard the International Space Station (ISS) joined earth-bound musician Ian Anderson to mark the historic anniversary with humanity’s first space-earth flute duet.
“It is really different to play up here,” Coleman said earlier during her stay on the Station. “I’ve been having the nicest time up in our cupola. I float around in there. A lot of the times I play with my eyes closed.”
Coleman, an amateur flutist, and Anderson, founder of the band Jethro Tull, performed a portion of the song “Bouree”. Anderson and Jethro Tull performed the song during their American tour in 1969 as astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to step foot on the moon. Coleman is an avid fan of Anderson’s. She carried one of his flutes, along with her own instrument, with her for a 6-month stay aboard the International Space Station. She also carried a penny whistle and Irish flute from members of the musical group The Chieftans.
Anderson played his part while on tour in Perm, Russia. Coleman played her portion from 220 miles above the Earth.
“Thanks, Col. Catherine Coleman in the International Space Station,” Anderson said following the performance. “We should remember that today’s cosmonauts, scientists and astronauts are still every bit the rocket heroes they were 50 years ago.”