Apollo 10 (2) flew to lunar orbit and back in late May 1969. Thomas Stafford, John Young, and Gene Cernan undertook every aspect of a lunar mission except for the actual landing, with Stafford and Young boarding a lunar module and flying it low over the lunar surface before returning to the Apollo command and service modules.
Young and Cernan would go on to command their own Apollo lunar missions, Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 respectively. Stafford would fly on board the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission. Two months later, Apollo 11 flew to the moon and made history with the first crewed landing on the lunar surface.
The transcript of the “music” incident is intriguing, to say the least.
One of the crew says: “You hear that? That whistling sound? Whooooooooo!”
“It sounds like, you know, outer space-type music,” another replies.
Later, one says: “I tell you, that music is really weird.”
“No one will believe us,” replies a colleague.
Where Did the Music Come From?
Was the music a broadcast from an alien spacecraft? After all, Apollo 10 was behind the moon and was blocked from any transmissions from the Earth. Could aliens have been trying to signal the astronauts in some fashion, using a musical tone, as was depicted in the Steven Spielberg movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind?
The likeliest reason is somewhat more mundane than alien signals or a magic boombox that could transmit sound, an impossibility in the vacuum of space. CBS News reports that NASA has known the explanation all along:
The strange sounds were the result of radio interference between the VHF systems aboard the Apollo 10 lunar module and the command module. But the crew did not know that at the time, and the astronauts were clearly caught off guard” (3).
In fact, the NASA History Office, contrary to some media reports, points out that the transcript and the recording have never been classified. The transcript (4) has been available since 1974, and the recording (5) has been online in digital format since 2012.
Michael Collins, who flew on Apollo 11 with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, also noticed the “space music” in his headphones while orbiting above the far side of the moon. Collins mentioned the incident in his memoirs “Carrying the Fire,” published in 1974.
Simple Technical Explanations
Of course, simple technical explanations are not satisfactory to people given to conspiracy theories. The lunar music story has been around the conspiracy community for some years, as a video from LunaCognita demonstrates (6).
One of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Apollo program, less well known than the “we never went to the moon” theory, involves the idea that the Apollo astronauts made the first contact with aliens during their lunar voyages and that NASA is covering the fact up.
Indeed, the narrative tries to explain why the last three Apollo missions were cancelled by suggesting that the aliens warned Earth humans not to venture to the moon again. The movie “Apollo 18” (7) was based on the premise, in part. The so-called music concert on the far side of the moon fits neatly with this theory.
The real reason we never went back to the moon stemmed from American domestic politics. After the first moon landing, public and political opinion clamored to bring the lunar exploration program to an end to address more earthly concerns, such as poverty and environmental pollution.
Space exploration advocates were not able to save the Apollo program against such arguments, even though the starving children vs. space exploration meme turned out to be bogus. Two attempts to restart deep space exploration, both undertaken by presidents named George Bush, failed to take off (8). But the reason was bad politics and not the intervention of aliens.
References & Image Credits:
(1) IB Times
(2) Wikipedia: Apollo 10
(3) CBS News
(7) TSW: Apollo 18 Proves Hollywood Has Run Out of Ideas
(8) Why Is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? by Mark R. Whittington