After several decades in which the reports remained classified, NASA has now released recordings of Apollo 10 astronauts describing a mysterious noise while orbiting the far side of the moon in 1969.
“You hear that? That whistling sound? Whooooooooo!” one of the astronauts initially remarked.
The sound was confirmed by the other astronauts present on the mission.
“It sounds like, you know, outer space-type music,” one said.
“Well, that sure is weird music,” another noted at the time.
The noise was picked up while the moon stood between Earth and the Apollo 10 capsule, meaning it couldn’t have come from Earth. And while strange noises have been picked up from Saturn on account of its magnetic field, that explanation doesn’t hold water in this instance.
The moon doesn’t have a magnetic field.
News of the bizarre incident recently aired on Science Channel’s “NASA’s Unexplained Files.” One expert suggests that the so-called “music” may have been produced by radio frequencies generated by the spacecraft itself—“interference between the Lunar Module’s and Command Module’s VHF radios.”
Some aren’t buying that explanation, however.
On the program, Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden argues that, “The Apollo 10 crew was very used to the kind of noise that they should be hearing. Logic tells me that if there was something recorded on there, then there was something there.”
Adding to the mystery is the sustained nature of the noise. It apparently lasted nearly the entire hour that the Apollo 10 capsule remained on the moon’s far side. As the spacecraft returned to the Earth-side of the moon, the noise disappeared.
Astronauts on the mission were recorded discussing whether or not they should mention the incident to NASA officials back home, noting that they might not be believed.
Apollo 10 was the most advanced mission of its kind until Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon later that year during the Apollo 11 mission. Apollo 10’s team of astronauts included Eugene Cernan, Tom Stafford and John Young. The mission was commanded by Stafford.
Their experience may not have been the only one of its kind.
BBC News notes that, “Michael Collins, the pilot of Apollo 11, says he also heard the noises when flying around the ‘dark side’ of the moon but was told by engineers that it was just radio interference.”
Collins described the incident in his book “Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys” and suggested the noise seemed to correspond to when radios belonging to the lunar module and command module were near one another and turned on. The sound then stopped when the lunar module carrying Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.
During the Apollo 10 mission, Young himself broached the possibility soon after hearing the noise, noting, “Probably due to the VHF [Very High Frequency radio] ranging, I’d guess.”
Cernan seemingly agreed with that assessment, responding, “Yes. I wouldn’t believe there’s anyone out there.”
As Popular Science points out, it’s also worth noting that—while unusual—the sound wasn’t so jarring that it distracted the astronauts from their otherwise routine tasks, which at the time even included enjoying some brownies and grape juice.
For those who earnestly believe that “the truth is out there,” it’s conceivable that the astronauts were attempting to downplay the noise for fear of losing credibility when NASA received recordings of their discussion. After all, immediately before positing the VHF theory, Young is heard saying, “We’re going to have to find out about that. Nobody will believe us.”
For whatever reason, Young’s memoirs reportedly make no mention of the odd sounds.
Skeptics will be more likely to chalk up the event to a more scientifically palatable explanation involving frequencies. For them, the ostensible mystery has been readily solved.
Regardless of how one interprets the “weird music” attracting the astronauts’ attention, Apollo 10 remains a momentous and crucial achievement for the space agency. It was in many respects a practice run for the historic Apollo 11 mission, an indispensable and pioneering element of the United States’ decade-defining project to put man on the moon.
You can check out a segment from the third season of “NASA’s Unexplained Files” below.