Succesful Launch: 7 Hit Songs from the Last Era of Space Exploration

While at first this may not appear immediately apparent, the explosion ‘overnight’ of Elvis Mania in the 50’s, Beatlemania in the 60’s, and Seattle Grunge Mania in the 90’s affirms such trends may appear to come out of nowhere; but often have been in development for a long while beforehand. With big league space exploration gearing up again there is set to be a renewed focus in pop culture.

Before clearing out your playlists for new albums and your walls for new posters, its worthwhile to look back on songs popped up last time a Space craze went down, as well as the long term legacy it left thereafter. Here now 7 songs that sang of space and became huge hits on Earth.

Across the Universe (1969)

Where else to begin? Released just a few months after Armstrong and Co. had made it their business to touch down on the moon, this piece came to signify while the Fab Four were nearing the end of time as a band; they were nonetheless set to go out on a high note.

Notably, this song from the latter Beatles’ singles thereafter was released once more in a different form on Let It Be, and thus contributes to the ongoing debate of whether LIB or Abbey Road was truly John, Paul, George, and Ringo’s last work.

Life on Mars (1971) 

2016 has proven to be a poor year for the world in some measures. This not least of which with the loss of David Bowie. Yet, despite the sadness of this passing this year, Bowie’s immense talent as a performer and artist ensured through is many reinvention every year before was a great one.

Few songs showcase this so well as song released in 1971. Bowie loved space, and there is no shortage of space-themed songs in his catalogue, but Life On Mars remains a standout. Hard hitting piano keys, wailing strings, and near-wailing by Bowie throughout somehow come together pitch perfect in a very vivid example of early 70’s rock opera.

Rocket Man (1972)

There is a theme emerging here no? Not surprisingly, the moon landing had a big impact on artists putting together words and chords about what had just occurred, and provides a window to what sort of music we are likely to see come out once more in the years ahead.

Meantime though, alongside a encapsulating melody, this song also puts forth some scepticism about the whole prospects for mars, with John singing “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids”, in fact, it’s cold as Hell”. The opinion may be rather painful for optimists of the Mars mission, but either way the song makes for a very worthwhile listen.

Man on the Moon (1992)

For anyone who is a 90s kid, or perhaps just a devotee of checking out classic video game ads on YouTube, it can be said: you couldn’t walk into a movie theatre, ice cream shop, or rollerblade store (because, they were big then) without coming across a song by REM.

While perhaps more renowned for Losing My Religion and Everybody Hurts, as John did in Rocket man,  this song served as a rallying cry for uncertain about the whole moon landing. While the science puts this to rest pretty convincingly, a bit of vigorous scepticism in science is always necessary; and so too is a listen to his classic by Michael Stipe.

To the Moon and Back (1997)

Australian band Savage Garden released a hit here that was heard around the world.  Singing of the sort of dedication in a relationship that makes picking up your partner from the airport at 3am ‘no big deal’.

The song already holds a rich ambience, but combined with the eclectic video to accompany it – full of allusions to space and a blue lens overlay reminiscent of classic sci-fi films – make it a significant release beyond song alone. So, to the good release and work Savage Garden did not just for Australian music but for the space songs catalogue this a do-click link.

Drops of Jupiter (2001)

‘Now that she’s back in the atmosphere with drops of Jupiter in her hair, yeahhaaheee’. Here a song sung about an astronaut ahead of her time (more on that in a moment), and done so by a band with a talent for painting a visual picture with rich words and melody.
While true in years since Train have perhaps done things to make them more infamous than famous – covering one of the greatest rock albums of all time in Led Zeppelin II without demand or necessity is unlikely to win you new fans all over – but a Whole Lotta Love that misses the mark notwithstanding; this 90’s ballad remains a class in the space sphere.

Fly Me to the Moon (1963)

Many may well say the definitive version of this song is sung by Sinatra, and it is surely very good. But both from a acoustic and cultural perspective, the credit in history warrants another look. It was actually Julie London who first released a version of this song in 1963, a year before Ol Blue Eyes took his chords to the studio for recording. In turn, its true: the world Frank knew and the one we’re to fly from today are very different.

The same as Sinatra’s talents as a singer are noted, so too does London’s tune details an important fact: the immensity of contribution by women to the space program and the pop culture that surrounds it cannot be overlooked.

Just as its tremendous a whole new generation of young men are set to grow up listening to these songs, watching those movies, and seeing great photos of man on the moon – so too can it not overlooked the many and varied contributions of talented women who got us there.

Apollo 11

‘Sure, I get to stand here looking all important, but you’ve gotta acknowledge Margaret on Earth’


While Neil Armstrong was the the first to land among the stars, so too was the great work of Margaret Hamilton back on Earth crucial to the mission success. The Wright Brothers wonderfully took us airborne for the first time; but Amelia Earhart took it half away around the world. More recently,  Gwynne Shotwell being the highest paid executive at SpaceX illustrates while Elon Musk serves as a talented figurehead of Space X, women like Gwynne are at the forefront of taking us from Earth to the stars.

So, for those who’ve heard Sinatra’s song, and seek to hear it sung just as well in a different timbre; Julie London’s version does very well. It also affirms whether in a rocket above or on Earth below;  the next giant leap  in space will not be delivered just by mankind, but all of humankind.

Here’s to all the future Rocket Men and Rocket Women set to launch in years ahead.

Ed Kennedy is a journalist, ghostwriter, and web developer from Melbourne, Australia. Contact Ed via on LinkedIn or Twitter@EdKennedy01

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