What Was the First Song Performed in Space?

Just days before Christmas in December 1965, the Gemini 6 and Gemini 7 spacecraft took part in the first manned rendezvous of two vehicles in space. Soon after, as astronauts Walter M. "Wally" Schirra Jr. and Thomas P. Stafford readied Gemini 6 for re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, they contacted Mission Control and reported a sighting of “a command module and eight smaller modules in front.” They said, “The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit.” It was then that Mission Control heard the familiar yet otherworldy strains of “Jingle Bells” coming from space.

Schirra and Stafford had smuggled a harmonica and miniature sleigh bells aboard the Gemini 6 spacecraft. That’s how “Jingle Bells,” James Lord Pierpont's 1857 composition, became the first song performed in space.

Merry Christmas from the great beyond:

  • The four-hole, eight-note Little Lady harmonica and five small bells used to play the iconic holiday tune are now on display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

  • “Wally came up with the idea,” Stafford recalled. “He could play the harmonica, and we practiced two or three times before we took off, but of course we didn’t tell the guys on the ground.”

  • The two astronauts attached dental floss and Velcro to the instruments so they could be hung on the wall of the spacecraft when they weren't being played.

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More Info: Smithsonian Magazine

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