While David Bowie once had the Spiders from Mars as a backing band, they never actually played the planet. That honor goes to Blur.
A song written and recorded by the pop combo has been programmed onboard the British space lander Beagle 2, which will be launched by a Soyuz/Fregat rocket and sent to the red planet in June 2003. The craft is scheduled to land on the planet's surface six months later, and upon its arrival, the Blur tune will be transmitted back to Earth as part of a systems test to indicate that the lander made it to its destination intact.
"Essentially we're going to be playing the first gig on Mars by proxy," drummer Dave Rowntree told MTV News on Wednesday (January 30). "As it turns out, the contract with our record company covers us for both the Earth and the solar system."
Blur loosely based the song on a mathematical sequence and programmed it into the lander early Wednesday. Bassist Alex James told the BBC it's reminiscent of the "Dr. Who" theme and has elements of tracks from Blur's last album, 13.
Beagle 2 project director Colin Pillinger asked Blur to contribute after hearing the band's song "Beagle 2," a B-side to their 1999 single "No Distance Left to Run."
"With the Voyager 2 (a U.S. craft launched to search other planets August 20, 1977), there was a huge debate at the time over what to play," Rowntree joked. "How do you know what sounds like a friendly, warm greeting and what sounds like a declaration [of war]? But I think Martian bacteria love Britpop."
The Beagle 2 is the "smallest, most heavily instrumented soft landing spacecraft ever produced," according to its Web site. The vehicle will carry remote observation equipment onboard along with a "lander communications package" that will support other Mars missions until the year 2007.
On December 23, James narrated a program about the history of Beagle 2 on the BBC's Radio 5.
In addition to their astronomical endeavor, Blur are working on their next album. Blur guitarist Graham Coxon released his third solo record in four years, Crow Sit on Blood Tree, on Transcopic Records in August. Vocalist Damon Albarn continues to work with cartoon-themed supergroup Gorillaz, who will tour America in February (see "Gorillaz Plan First North American Tour" ). Gorillaz plan to work on new material later this year.