They don’t make them like this anymore. Occasional astrophysicist and guitarist for Queen Brian May has gifted us with a song in tribute to NASA’s successful mission to flyby Ultima Thule. It’s pure space-opera rock that deserves a place in the nerd cannon right alongside Queen’s soundtrack for Flash Gordon.
As the new year arrived here on Earth, the team at NASA began receiving the first data from the New Horizons spacecraft confirming it had reached a mysterious object on the outer edge of our solar system. Ultima Thule is an object in the icy Kuiper belt. Frozen in time, the object may allow NASA to collect data that it hopes can give us further insight into the history and formation of our solar system. May, who earned his PhD in astrophysics in 2007, dusted off his signature red ax and laid down a fittingly over-the-top anthem to mark the occasion.
Dr. May has been working with the New Horizon mission’s science team and told the New York Times that he was reluctant to put on his rock star hat when a colleague first requested a new song about the mission. He said he thought it would be difficult because he couldn’t “think of anything that rhymes with Ultima Thule.” Ultimately we got a video with some perfectly cheesy 3D graphics, singing guitar harmonies, and lyrics like:
New Horizons no one’s ever seen before.
Limitless wonders in a never ending sky.
We may never, never reach them.
That’s why we have to try!
Yes. It is that earnest throughout the entire song, and it’s just the right sort of optimism to welcome the new year. Yes, the late Freddie Mercury would’ve been able to really sell these lyrics, but May does an admirable job on his own.
We have a lot more data to download from New Horizons over the coming months at the painfully slow rate of one kilobit per second. But when the high-def images start to come in around February, crank up May’s song once again and shout-along: “The future is beckoning and onward and onward we fly!”