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New will.i.am song transmitted from Mars Curiosity rover

August 28, 2012|By Amina Khan | Los Angeles Times
  • Will.i.am speaks to students and listens to his song, "Reach for the Stars," played after being transmitted from the surface of Mars by the Curiosity rover at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Will.i.am speaks to students and listens to his song, "Reach for the… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

The Curiosity rover transmitted the first-ever feature song from the surface of Mars on Tuesday – a track penned by singer and producer will.i.am  to celebrate the NASA robot’s successful landing on the Red Planet.

The song, called “Reach for the Stars,” was beamed back to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, where will.i.am took the stage to answer questions from students from Boyle Heights, where he grew up.

“There’s no words to explain how amazing this is,” the singer, of Black Eyed Peas fame, said to the gathered audience, standing on stage with NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, the agency’s associate administrator for education.

The number features a 40-piece orchestra and isn’t your standard urban hip-hop anthem, the singer pointed out, because it’s meant to weather the test of time and be easily translated across cultures. 

“I know that Mars might be far, but baby it ain’t really that far / Let’s reach for the stars (reach for the stars),” will.i.am sings on the track, in ephemeral autotune.

“Let me see your hands up!” Lil John screams, seguing into the chorus.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called up will.i.am after the success of a back-to-school TV special that  the singer had produced.

“He was like, ‘I want to pick your brain on what we need to be doing to help us with our message at NASA,’” will.i.am recalled. When he suggested creating a song that could be aired from the Red Planet, officials asked who would write it.

“I was like, ‘Are you guys for real? I’ll write the song!’” he said, laughing.

The song seemed to be a hit with the kids. Flight director and resident “Mohawk Guy” Bobak Ferdowsi, stars grown out of his distinctive red-and-blue-striped hairstyle, hit the button to start playback. Chief engineer Rob Manning grooved to the beat along with teammates on a giant display video screen.

Follow me on Twitter @aminawrite.

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