On Aug. 13, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano, Italy’s first spacewalker, became the first DJ in space when he performed a set from the International Space Station.
An astronaut, engineer and now a DJ, Parmitano performed a 12-minute set from a tablet with built-in DJ software for an audience of 3,000, who enjoyed the performance on board a cruise ship moored at Ibiza, an island in the Mediterranean where tourists flock to nightclubs and DJs spin electronic music.
Parmitano performed as part of the regular programming for an on-board festival, the BigCityBeats World Club Dome Cruise Edition. He prepared for the set with the help and mentorship of German DJ Le Shuuk, who performed in person after him.
Before launching to the space station earlier this summer, Parmitano took time out of his busy pre-flight training schedule to learn how to mix tracks and perform as a DJ with Le Shuuk, who also provided the astronaut with a playlist and specialized DJ software to take to space.
Before his set (beginning at about 08:45 of the video), Parmitano greeted the audience on a screen, floating in the microgravity environment on the space station. “I’d like to welcome you on board the Columbus module, the European lab on board on the International Space Station, the most amazing cooperation of space agencies in the world,” he said to a captivated, silent crowd of clubbers.
“Today, we are here working, doing science, performing experiments, testing technology, exploring the future,” he said, adding that this performance fits in with his second space mission, which began in July. Known as “Beyond,” his mission aims to expand our understanding of the universe and “look far beyond our planet to broaden our knowledge,” ESA officials wrote in a description of the mission.
“You may be wondering,” Parmitano asked the audience, “what brings us here today? Why are we performing a DJ set on orbit?” It was a reasonable question, considering this is the first time that such a performance has taken place from space.
Parmitano told the story of how, during his astronaut selection process, he was asked by a psychologist what he hopes for most in the world. And he responded by saying he wished there was a common language that everyone in the world could speak. But later on, he realized that two common languages already exist: math and music. “Music is an amazing, amazing equalizer,” he said
“So, this is what I’m trying to do today — trying to put the words out of my mouth into my hands. I’m not a DJ, but I’m trying to put myself out of my comfort zone just to explore a little bit beyond my capabilities and also communicating through music. So, are you ready for some music? Let’s see what I can do,” Parmitano added.
Parmitano then pressed a button on the tablet in his hands and dance music flooded the deck of the cruise ship to the delight of thousands of excited festival-goers.
“See if you can do it going sideways like me,” Parmitano said as he floated up onto the wall next to him, parallel to the floor. The set seemed to go over well with the crowd, who danced through smoke and lights as the bass dropped. Parmitano got into the DJ spirit and at one point even shouted, “Up with your hands!” as he floated upside down, clapping over his head while his tablet stayed in place midair. The crowd followed, clapping over their heads alongside the astronaut.
This event came together as a collaboration between the events company BigCityBeats and ESA’s Partnerships Unit, who connected the company with Parmitano.
“I had goosebumps and tears in my eyes when I saw Luca raising the World Club Dome flag on the Space Station,” Bernd Breiter, CEO of BigCityBeats GmbH, said in a statement. “When the first music started to play during the broadcast from space, I cannot even begin to describe my feelings in that moment. This has been my dream for many years to create the first club in space and, on a much broader scale, to connect science and music, which I hope will inspire generations to come.”