Beatles to be beamed across the universe

The songs of The Beatles have always enjoyed a global appeal. Now one of their best-loved recordings is to be beamed into the galaxy in an attempt to introduce the Fab Four’s music to alien ears.

Nasa will broadcast the song, Across the Universe, through the transmitters of its deep-space communications network on Monday — the 40th anniversary of its recording at London’s Abbey Road studios.

The music will be converted into digital data and sent on a 431-light-year journey towards Polaris, the North Star, in a stunt that also commemorates the space agency’s 50th anniversary.

Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, who co-wrote the song with John Lennon and played an extraterrestrial concert from Earth to the crew of the international space station in 2005, said he was excited by the project. ”Well done, Nasa,” he said. ”Send my love to the aliens.”

Whether there is anything out there to hear the broadcast is another matter. But according to Briton Martin Lewis, a Los Angeles-based former producer of Beatles DVDs who came up with the idea, it would be fun trying to collect the royalties.

”We don’t know if there’s life out there, but I’d like to think the United States government wouldn’t be spending taxpayers’ money on this if there was no hope,” he said.

Lewis said he chose the 1968 song, which the group never released as a single, because its title and lyrics represent a spirit of friendship and harmony.

”It never had the highest profile and is a bit of a forgotten classic,” he said. ”But it has universal appeal. It transcends ages, borders, language and other barriers.”

Other Beatles favourites, such as Here Comes the Sun, Ticket to Ride and A Hard Day’s Night, have been played in space as wake-up music to astronauts aboard the space station and on shuttle missions.

But this is the first time any music has been transmitted deep into the cosmos. Nasa will encrypt the song and beam it into space from its Madrid transmitter on Monday at the start of a 2,5-quadrillion-mile trip (that’s 23 zeros for anyone without a large-capacity calculator) to Polaris, where it will finally arrive in the year 2439.

February 4 has also been declared ”Across the Universe Day” by Beatles fans across the world, who are urged to play their own recording of the song at the same time as Nasa begins its own broadcast, 7pm in the US, midnight in the United Kingdom and 1am on Tuesday in Spain.

”I see that this is the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe,” said Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow, who has given her backing to the project. — Â

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

One Movie, Two Takes: Hustle

You don’t have to be a basketball fan to enjoy this new Netflix sports drama

WATCH LIVE: 200 Young South Africans 2022

M&G will showcase SA’s most versatile, innovative young professionals to inspire, ignite and prepare upcoming youth for a new world

Banning abortion criminalises femininity as it does race and poverty

Unpacking the reversal of Roe v Wade and the ruling in Dobbs v Jackson reveals a pushback against gains made by women

Flying the flag for the youth

Emmy-nominated actress Thuso Mbedu credits inclusivity, equality, and sustainability to getting her career to where it is today. As a Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South African, the actress encourages the youth to collaborate for a better future

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…