Christmas is around the corner. Children in schools up and down the country are performing their Christmas nativities and singing their Christmas carols to proud parents and grandparents. Undoubtedly, amongst the songs belted out by enthusiastic kids will be Jingle Bells. A firm favourite for all, with the added bonus that even the smallest children can join in by shaking something that jingles.
Jingle Bells was apparently first written as a Thanksgiving song and didn’t become a song associated with Christmas until several decades later. It was published in 1857 and was originally written by James Lord Pierpont, who would very probably not have believed where his little tune would be performed just over 100 years later…..
Because, the thing you might not know is that Jingle Bells was the first piece of music to be played and broadcast from Space.
It was December, 1965 and Gemini 6 and Gemini 7 had just completed the first manned rendez-vous between spacecraft. Astronaut, Wally Schirrah, who was travelling in Gemini 6 informed Houston and Gemini 7 that he had spotted an object. Something, he stated that looked like a satellite that was travelling from North to South, “probably in a Polar orbit.”
He went on, “He’s in a very low trajectory, travelling from North to South and has a very high climbing ratio……. stand by…”
Schirrah then started to play “Jingle Bells” on an 8-note “Little Lady” harmonica while his colleagues in Gemini 7 and back on Earth in Houston chuckled away.
Wally Schirrah went on to become the pilot of the first successful Apollo mission, Apollo 7. He was the first astronaut to go into Space three times and the only astronaut to have flown in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programmes for NASA. He was also the first person to have played and broadcast a piece of music from Space.
And, that piece of music was Jingle Bells.
“Ho Ho Ho!”