The Zune, Microsoft’s failed digital music player from the early 2000s, is getting a second chance on board the International Space Station (ISS), after performing cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and other Marvel movies. Microsoft and its collaborators are planning to resuscitate the famously doomed gadget through 3D-printing technology.
Microsoft has partnered with aerospace manufacturer Redwire to 3D print a Microsoft Zune on the ISS, Redwire recently announced. The Zune player made a rare appearance at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as the butt of a joke—a nostalgic reminder of the little music player that couldn’t. Microsoft launched Zune in 2006, five years after Apple revealed the groundbreaking iPod. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s own digital music player could not compete with the iPod, and it was discontinued six years after its debut.
In the film, Chris Pratt’s character, Star Lord, upgrades his music-listening device from a walkman to a Zune, a tongue in cheek reference to the now-outdated (always-outdated?) digital player. “It’s what everybody’s listening to on Earth nowadays,” Star Lord says of his first-generation Zune. Of course, Star Lord’s last memory of Earth was during the 1970s, so the Zune would truly have been a game changer for him.
Star Lord still relies on Microsoft’s Zune in the third series of the popular movie franchise, with the gadget also appearing by his side in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
With the latest movie in the series hitting theaters this week, Microsoft fully embraced Zune’s reputation and launched an entire website dedicated to its gadgetary flop. The website also features a short ad in which the Guardians of the Galaxy superheroes pay a short visit to the ISS, with a space station astronaut handing the fictional superhero Star Lord a new Zune to replace his broken unit.
Zune’s website aims to promote STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education among students, creating different space-themed activities on the website for young explorers. As part of its campaign, Microsoft will be using Redwire’s Additive Manufacturing Facility on board the ISS National Lab to 3D print its deceased gadget.
“Space is critical to inspiring future generations,” Mike Gold, Redwire’s chief growth officer, said in a statement. “Redwire is proud to bring together our own super hero team with Microsoft and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 to help educate and inspire students in the real world to pursue careers in STEAM.”
For those of you hoping to see a fully functional unit come out of that 3D printer, you may be in for a disappointment. In response to a Gizmodo query, a Redwire spokesperson confirmed that the company will forge a mockup of the Zune on board the ISS. “It will not be playing any music,” the spokesperson explained in an email. “This print is a tool, and this project is helping us leverage the excitement of the release of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 movie, as an opportunity to engage a new audience who loves science fiction and have them get to know more about the real science that happens on the ISS, including 3D printing.”
The commemorative mission comes with a neat patch, featuring Rocket and Cosmo from the Marvel films, in addition to the Zune and ISS. And on that note, this isn’t the first time the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise has made an appearance on the ISS. In 2016, Marvel designed the ISS patch to include the movie’s favorite duo Rocket and Groot as space travel enthusiasts.
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