A group of artists and engineers in Mexico have unveiled the world's first opera-singing satellite. Set for launch in August, the Mexican Space Collective's nanosatellite named Ulises 1 will hover in Earth's orbit, transmitting for up to 6 months what they describe as "algorithmic opera" using radio waves. "We'll be playing the music til the batteries run out," says astrophysicist and Ulises 1 technical director Celso Gutierrez Martinez.
How did the idea of a singing satellite come about?
We wanted to use outer space as a place to merge both art and technology. Ulises 1 demonstrates that artists and scientists can work together and accomplish challenging tasks. It's important to show that if space can be reached by ordinary citizens – i.e. artists and musicians – any challenge can be overcome.
What makes Ulises 1 so unique?
Its mission: the satellite carries artistic sounds as original melodies that have been composed just for the space mission and broadcast as a cultural expression of Mexico. At the same time, the satellite serves a scientific purpose of measuring temperature and its position while traveling in Earth's orbit.
Sound can't travel in outer space, so how will it sing?
Yes, sound waves can't travel in a vacuum. Instead it will use ultra-high frequency radio waves to transmit the music. The device will play 11 music tracks, original melodies associated with Mexico conjured up by artists' own conceptions. For example, there's a track called "Maize," inspired by the complex corn genome.
Who will be able to hear these songs?
The music samples will be picked up by several scientific stations on Earth. The first receiving station will be located in Puebla, Mexico, where the National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics is located. The station will then relay the sounds over the internet, so that the whole world can have a listen.