WASHINGTON — The Beatles are about to become radio stars in a whole new way.
NASA on Monday will broadcast the Beatles’ song “Across the Universe” across the galaxy to Polaris, the North Star.
This first-ever beaming of a radio song by the space agency directly into deep space is nostalgia-driven. It celebrates the 40th anniversary of the song, the 45th anniversary of NASA’s Deep Space Network, which communicates with its distant probes, and the 50th anniversary of NASA.
“Send my love to the aliens,” Paul McCartney told NASA through a Beatles historian. “All the best, Paul.”
The song, written by McCartney and John Lennon, may have a ticket to ride and will be flying at the speed of light. But it will take 431 years along a long and winding road to reach its final destination. That’s because Polaris is 2.5 quadrillion miles away.
NASA loaded an MP3 of the song, just under four minutes in its original version, and will transmit it digitally at 7 p.m. ET Monday from its giant antenna in Madrid, Spain. But if you wanted to hear it on Polaris, you would need an antenna and a receiver to convert it back to music, the same way people receive satellite television.
The idea came from Martin Lewis, a Los Angeles-based Beatles historian, who then got permission from McCartney, Yoko Ono and the two companies that own the rights to Beatles’ music. One of those companies, Apple, was happy to approve the idea because it is “always looking for new markets,” Lewis told The Associated Press.
NASA has beamed a McCartney live performance to the international space station, but Lewis said he was surprised to hear that the space agency had never tried transmitting music to the stars.
"They were very open-minded to it," he told msnbc.com.
Lewis said the event already has generated a lot of buzz — and he's hoping that Beatles fans around the world will play the song at the same time that NASA is transmitting it, as part of "Across the Universe Day."
"I think it's going to turn into quite a fun event," he said, "something positive in our sometimes-depressing world."
Perhaps coincidentally, the song’s launching comes a day before the release of the DVD of the Julie Taymor movie named after the Beatles hit.
This story includes information from The Associated Press and msnbc.com.
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