It may not have been as historic as Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, but the occasion may have inspired several Roosevelt High School students who were among a select few who got to hear, in person, the first ever live broadcast of a song from Mars.
Beamed from more than 700 million miles away, swelling orchestral music filled a room at Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena on Tuesday, lifting up a hip-hop ode to the wonders of science. The song, “Reach for the Stars,” composed by Boyle Heights-native and musician will.i.am, was transmitted by the Curiosity rover, an un-manned robot exploring the surface of Mars and collecting data for research into the red planet.
Told to “reach for the stars,” the students couldn’t help but smile as they raised their hands and nodded to the song’s lyrics: “Live it up. Why do they say the sky is the limit, when I see footprints on the moon? The sky might be high, but it really ain’t that high…”
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden addressed the students in a video message. “Mars has always fascinated us, and the things Curiosity tells us about it will help us learn about whether or not life was possible there,” he said. “And what future human explorers can expect. will.i.am has provided the first song on our playlist of Mars exploration.”
will.i.am, who was with the students at JPL for the interplanetary unveiling of the song, says the program he set up last year to inspire students from Boyle Heights and East L.A. to pursue science, engineering, technology and math careers, often draws a connection between the arts and science. “If you know music, you know math,” he said. He also pointed out that without scientists there would be no radio or record players.
will.i.am said being in the program does not mean students will automatically decide to enter the science and math fields, so he decided to take extra steps to encourage them.
Last year, the entertainer pitched the idea of broadcasting a song from Mars, not sure if his crazy plan would be approved. Even if it did not happen, at least he could say he tried and got to “hang out with NASA scientists.”
During the unveiling, he exchanged stories with NASA astronaut Leland Melvin about how support from family and friends motivated them to reach for their dreams. will.i.am explained that his mother sent him to a science magnet in Brentwood, an hour away from Boyle Heights. Melvin said he got to create the most “fantastic explosion” using the chemistry set he got from his parents.
“Once you’re encouraged you don’t see boundaries,” said will.i.am.
Check out JPL’s video up of the broadcast from Mars.