Astronaut Alexander Gerst Shows Off His Rad Synthesizer Skills from Space

In a special performance, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst played a virtual synthesizer from space alongside electronic band Kraftwerk.

At the Jazz Open Festival in Stuttgart, Germany, on July 20, Gerst appeared on a massive screen behind the stage, floating in microgravity aboard the space station, as shown in a video from ESA. Gerst welcomed famed electronic band Kraftwerk and even joined the band in a live performance. Gerst played a virtual synthesizer through an app on a tablet; you can see him pressing buttons and affecting the note on screen.

Gerst began with a solo. In fact, he started off by playing the famous melody from the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" — the song that's used to communicate with extraterrestrials in the film.  

After his first song, Gerst addressed the crowd in German, subtitled in the ESA video, saying, "I am one of only six people in space, on the outpost of humanity, the International Space Station (ISS), 400 kilometers [250 miles] above sea level."

"The ISS is a man machine, the most complex and valuable machine humankind has ever built," Gerst continued. "Here in the European Columbus laboratory, the successor to the Spacelab, the European Space Agency is researching things that will improve daily life on Earth. More than 100 different nations work together peacefully here and achieve things that a single nation could never achieve." This last line elicited exuberant cheers from the crowd of 7,500.

"We are developing technologies on board the ISS to grow beyond our current horizons and prepare to take further steps into space, to the moon and Mars," Gerst concluded.

Gerst then put down the microphone and picked the tablet back up, ready to perform again. He played a duet of the song "Spacelab" with Kraftwerk founding member Ralf Hütter.  

Gerst will live and work on the space station until mid-December 2018. Perhaps he'll spend just a little of that time honing his synthesizer skills.

Email Chelsea Gohd at or follow her @chelsea_gohd. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.