Astronaut's lunar heartbeat lives on in Lennon cover

To honor the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, a singer adds sounds of Neil Armstrong's heart, plus "sounds of Venus" recorded by Voyager, to a John Lennon song.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
2 min read

Forty-five years ago, on July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission touched down on the moon and took "one giant leap for mankind." Artist Louise Gold may have just created the perfect sound track for marking that historical feat.

Apollo 11's lunar landing mission crew (from left to right): Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin. NASA

Gold, a Berlin-based singer/songwriter, recorded a version of John Lennon's "Oh My Love" using astronaut Neil Armstrong's heartbeat as the basic rhythm and added audio frequency sounds evolved from data collected by the Voyager spacecraft as it passed Venus.

It started when Gold heard a radio program about the moon landing that mentioned how Armstrong's heartbeat spiked to 160 bpm before he left Apollo 11 and then slowed again when he walked on the lunar surface. "It struck me then that this strong and yet peaceful sound could be the perfect rhythm for a song," Gold said.

The singer, who has long been fascinated by space, discovered a NASA recording of sounds derived from the plasma wave detector on the Voyager craft as it traveled through waves of electrons in ionized gas.

The waves aren't audible to the human ear, but because they occur at audio frequencies, "we can play the data through a loudspeaker and listen," space physicist Don Gurnett explained when NASA shared sounds of interstellar space last year. "The pitch and frequency tell us about the density of gas surrounding the spacecraft."

When Gold listened to the sounds, she heard a harmony between Venus and Armstrong's heartbeat. "Then 'Oh My Love' came into my mind and all of a sudden the song seemed absolutely complete," she said.

Have a listen to Gold's lilting tribute to space exploration below (and note: it may be challenging to differentiate the astronaut's soft heartbeat from the quiet whizzes and crackles of the space recordings).