Canadian astronaut and future space station commander Chris Hadfield has a full load of tasks to tend to when he gets to orbit, but he's also planning to fit in some time with one of his passions: the guitar. A Larrivée Parlor acoustic guitar, to be exact.
The guitar is already waiting for Hadfield on the International Space Station (ISS), where astronauts have been using it to serenade each other since its delivery by the space shuttle Discovery's STS-105 mission in 2001. For example, Dan Burbank, the station's current Expedition 30 commander, has been making use of it in his down time.
The 52-year-old Hadfield, who will become the first Canadian to command a spacecraft when he takes control of the station's Expedition 35 mission, is scheduled to launch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in December.
"I think it would be really good to record a bunch of songs on orbit, original music on orbit," Hadfield said. "Some of the earliest spacefaring songs, I'm going to write and play up there."
In preparation for his space music career, the astronaut was recently given a tour of the Larrivée Guitar shop in Vancouver, British Columbia by John Larrivée Jr., who runs the guitar factory.
"The Larrivée Parlor on the ISS was purchased at the local Guitar Center in Southern Florida and there are actually two of them," Larrivée told SPACE.com. "The other stays on the ground at NASA so they know what's up there."
The model in space has already completed more than 61,584 orbits during its 3,849 days in space, giving it an edge over Hadfield himself, who has 20 days on-orbit under his belt from two previous space shuttle flightsin 1995 and 2001.
The guitar has fared well in space, and "there were no effects on the Parlor during its flight up to the ISS," Larrivée said.
Hadfield moonlights as a guitarist for two bands, including the all-astronaut band Max Q, and looks forward to being able to record while aboard the space station. He plans to use the Larrivée Parlor, a laptop, an acoustic sound-hole pick up, a Shure microphone and Cakewalk software to will record in a 'whisper zone' in front of a window overlooking Earth, Larrivée said.
Hadfield told the guitar shop owner he plans to use his space station experience as his songwriting muse.
The guitar and its Earth-bound clone were purchased by NASA for $1,800. With the additional cost of flying this piece of cargo into space, their price skyrockets to nearly $100,000.
"Could you imagine having a gig up there and having to pay for your gear to arrive?!" Larrivée joked.
With that price tag and the current state of the music industry, the first band to record in space is a long, long time away. We'll just have to enjoy the little pieces beamed down to us from more than 200 miles up.