We always knew Herbie Hancock was not from this planet, and apparently NASA knew it too. In a new interview with NPR, the famed musician talks about being recruited by NASA specifically to make music out of information received on their Juno mission. The interview talks about how the data received from the Juno spacecraft comes through in tones and overtones, and how interpreting that data in musical form would be a great way to appeal to a younger generation.

It’s something I’m doing with NASA and Jet Propulsion Lab[oratory]. You know, JPL. I don’t know if you heard about, but I’m sure many of your listeners have heard about the spacecraft that was sent from here to the planet Jupiter, that is now orbiting Jupiter. It’s going to make 33 orbits and then it’s going to make a third of an orbit as it crashes into the planet, but meanwhile it’s sending information in the form of tones back to the earth, and a lot of what is involved has to do with overtones, and the overtone series, with a lot of their scientific data. So the reference of 33 and 1/3 orbits, you know, revolutions, like, 33 and 1/3 rpm vinyl records. And even the shape of the Juno spacecraft — it’s got the solar paneling and one of the panels almost looks like the arm of a record player.

So, there are so many references to music with the tones and the overtones that they thought, in order to draw more attention to the fantastic work that’s being done, and the space technology, and there’s a lot of interest in, not just the planets, but in the galaxy and the universe — they realized that there’s a musical component that relates directly with all of these things. So they came to me with the idea of putting something together with various artists to kind of promote this and particularly for young people. You know, stimulate interest in science and space.

Unfortunately, Hancock is only one of many who is involved, and Apple Music is more or less in charge of this musical space fusion. 

No no no, it’s something that’s going to be ongoing, and they’re working with Apple on the majority of this project, so I don’t know all of the details because I’m just one of the people involved, but it’s pretty much under NASA’s and Apple’s wing. So I imagine that Apple Music is very much involved. And I was there for the actual event where the spacecraft finally went into orbit, where it had to slow down at exactly the right time, and when it had to do what it does to go into orbit around Jupiter, into the orbit they wanted. I mean, all those things were done to a T. They missed one thing, by .7 seconds. Everything else was absolutely on point. And that .7 seconds was negligible, so it was a complete success. They were even shocked that it would be so successful.

Still, having the “Space Captain” create actual music from space should make for quite the thrill.