Rap star will.i.am & NASA beam back interplanetary first

8:43 PM, Aug 28, 2012   |    comments
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(CBS News) Musician will.i.am made history today with the help of NASA, but more importantly sent a message to youth in America: anything is possible. It's hard to argue with that sentiment when the event in question was broadcasting a song from the surface of Mars.

"Reach for the Stars" - a classical piece of music will.i.am wrote especially for Mars Rover Curiosity - was beamed back to Earth from the rover's current position on the Red Planet via radio waves. The Black Eyed Peas member, not generally known for his classical music chops, said that he consciously chose that musical genre for NASA's groundbreaking broadcast.

Speaking to a group of California schoolchildren invited to Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory by NASA to witness the event, will.i.am said, "I was here [at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory] last year and they said it was a possibility of having the song broadcast back from Mars. The first thing that hit my head was: I don't want a song that was done on the computer. I want to show human collaboration."

The musician worked with a 40-piece orchestra to create the wordless, instrumental song. The style, and choice to run a song without words, was picked to give "Reach for the Stars" as broad a reach as possible.

will.i.am may not seem like an obvious first choice to be the first musician broadcasted from beyond Earth. But the singer has worked with NASA before, most notably with the organization U.S. First, a non-profit group whose goal is to inspire children to become more engaged in science and technology.

When asked by the school kids how the process happened, will.i.am said he approached NASA with the idea of putting a piece of music on the Curiosity rover to send back from Mars.

"[NASA] said, who's going to do the song?" will.i.am told the kids. "I was like, are you serious?"

Bailey Johnson, CBS News

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