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NPR Arts & Life

NASA Gets Some Help From Guitarist Brian May On Its New Horizons Probe

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALICE BOWMAN: We've just accomplished the most distant flyby - science to help us understand the origins of our solar system.

(APPLAUSE)

NOEL KING, HOST:

That was mission operations manager Alice Bowman announcing yesterday that NASA's New Horizons probe had successfully reached the furthest object in our solar system ever visited by a spacecraft. It's a minor planet named Ultima Thule. That's about three years after New Horizons recorded the clearest images yet of Pluto.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One of the collaborators on that project was a scientist from England by the name of Brian May. You might also know him from his day job.

(SOUNDBITE OF QUEEN SONG, "BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY")

MARTIN: Yep, that Brian May, the guitarist from Queen, he is also an astrophysicist. And not only did he contribute to New Horizons, but he wrote a song to celebrate its journey.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NEW HORIZONS")

BRIAN MAY: (Singing) Limitless wonders in a never-ending sky. We may never, never reach them. That's why we have to try.

KING: May tells us it's his first solo release in more than 20 years. It's called "New Horizons," and he says he was inspired by how the mission was emblematic of mankind's will to question and go out adventuring.

MAY: You know, this is exploration - almost Victorian-style if you like. It's just there, so we have to know about it. So the song became about that, you know, the indomitable spirit of man to explore the universe around him.

MARTIN: In a way, the song is actually a kind of duet. It features the famous voice of Stephen Hawking.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NEW HORIZONS")

STEPHEN HAWKING: The revelations of New Horizons may help us to understand better how our solar system was formed.

MAY: Stephen published a message to the New Horizons team in 2015 on the event of that Pluto flyby, so I put a couple of little soundbites of Stephen in the song with the approval of his family, which makes me happy because we were friends towards the end of his life. So yeah, he's kind of with me on the record.

KING: Considering Brian May's success last year with the Queen biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody," which grossed more than $700 million worldwide, it's safe to say his 2019 is off to a pretty good start, too. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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