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Chris Hadfield's Space Oddity hit returns to YouTube

Elizabeth Howell, News Writer
Nov 5, 2014, 1:37 UTC

Sen—It is time to sparkle a little more Ziggy Stardust on space fans. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s popular re-rendering of David Bowie’s Space Oddity is back on YouTube after half a year off the air.

Hadfield’s team pulled the popular cover version off the video website after a licensing agreement with Bowie’s publisher expired in May, one year after the video was published. But now there is a fresh pact that will keep the haunting cover online for at least the next two years.

“It was a chance to let people see where we truly are in space exploration,” Hadfield wrote on his website of the initial decision to record and produce the song. “We’re not just probing what lies beyond Earth—we inhabit it.”

Hadfield, an accomplished guitarist with a flair for comedy, was on board the International Space Station in 2012-13, which included him becoming the first Canadian to command the orbiting outpost. While running a scientifically productive crew, Hadfield drew accolades worldwide for his public outreach.

Early in his five-month stay, Hadfield spoke with numerous Star Trek actors via social media. He began recording guitar songs in his spare time. Then, as 2013 progressed, his star rose rapidly.

In concert with the Canadian Space Agency, Hadfield created several videos showing him doing everyday acts in orbit such as making food or wringing out a washcloth. His pictures from space, shared via social media with the assistance of Hadfield’s son Evan, generated thousands upon thousands of shares.

Hadfield capped off the experience with a recording of Space Oddity recorded on board the space station and released shortly before he landed in May 2013. The decision came after numerous requests on social media and after consulting with Bowie’s publisher and lawyers.

Some of the lyrics were changed to reflect Hadfield’s experience on the space station and also so that the astronaut lives in the song, something that is ambiguous in the original.


Canadian Chris Hadfield preparing for his final flight into space, which took place from 2012-13. Image credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov

The initial agreement was for a year, requiring Hadfield to remove the video from YouTube earlier this year. Hadfield’s team then worked with Bowie’s team through 2014 to see if it was possible to bring the video back online. Bowie, who has said that he immensely enjoyed the cover, was among those that made it possible for the song to return, Hadfield said.

“This sequence wasn’t anyone’s fault,” Hadfield added. “The day we took the video down we started to work again to get permission to get it re-posted. But the legal process is careful and exacting, and thus takes time. Despite countless on-line expressions of frustration and desire, it wasn’t anyone’s ill-will or jealousy that kept this version of Oddity off YouTube. It was merely the natural consequence of due process.”

Hadfield retired from the Canadian Space Agency shortly after landing, but he is still very active in public life. The former astronaut remains a frequent public speaker and traveller, and holds a teaching post at the University of Waterloo in Canada. He also has authored two books: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (2013) and a newly released pictorial volume called You Are Here: Around the World In 92 Minutes.