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NASA crowd-sourcing its astronaut soundtrack

The astronauts' "wake-up songs" for the final two space shuttle missions have been put to a poll. 4chan may want to be aware that they can't write in Rick Astley.

Sunrise on the space shuttle
Astronauts on the space shuttle can see a sunrise numerous times a day, making the daily wake-up call from mission control all the more important. This image shows the sun lighting up Earth's atmosphere as seen in August 2005 from the shuttle Discovery (looking back past the cargo bay and tail assembly) on mission STS-114. NASA

As NASA's space shuttle era draws to a close, the space program is inviting online fans to partake in one of its traditions: voting for the "Wakeup Song" traditionally played for astronauts to roust them in the mornings, which have in the past been chosen by family and friends of the shuttle crews.

"Space shuttle crews really enjoy the morning wake-up music," shuttle commander Mark Kelly said in a NASA announcement from last Friday. "While we don't have the best quality speaker in the space shuttle, it will be interesting to hear what the public comes up with. We are looking forward to it."

NASA's two final space shuttle missions, STS-133 (Discovery) and STS-134 (Endeavour), have scheduled launch dates of Nov. 1 and Feb. 26 respectively. (They had been scheduled to go in July and September of this year, respectively.)

Unfortunately, there are not many opportunities for write-in candidates: you can vote on NASA's site for your favorite of the top 40 previously used "Wakeup Songs," or upload an original song of your own, as long as it's "space-themed." (This could be a great opportunity for publicity on behalf of some indie bands.) STS-133 will feature the two highest-ranking songs in the top 40; STS-134 will feature the two highest-ranking original songs after finalists are put to a vote online. Among the choices for the top 40 are Tom Petty's "Learning To Fly," Train's "Drops of Jupiter," Elton John's "Rocket Man," and the theme from "Star Trek."

This restrictiveness may be because a good chunk of "space-themed" songs are sad astro-ballads about getting lost and never coming home, from David Bowie's classic "Space Oddity" to this year's Wolf Parade single "Yulia," and could be a bit insensitive for use in the space program. Or it might be because invariably some prank-minded Web forum would try to game the contest in favor of a meme-fueled suggestion like Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" (which won a New York Mets eighth-inning sing-along contest after Digg and Fark encouraged users to vote it up) or anything by teen pop star Justin Bieber.

Although, come to think about it, that trippy, stretched-out recording of a Justin Bieber song would be a perfect soundtrack for space.