Daft Punk – Contact – The Radio Broadcast Mystery

By Anupum Pant


Since the day Daft Punk’s album RAM (Random Access Memories) came out last year, I’ve been listening to it at least one time every day. I don’t have a time-table sort of thing that makes me listen to it. But, since the tracks are played on shuffle, nearly all of the tracks from RAM are played at least once by my Media Player.

Every one of those tracks is wonderful. The best part, I think is their retro-styled fluid basslines (that phrase is what comes to my mind). We hardly come across such basslines in Dance music these days. But I’m not a music critique and let me stop messing around with random words to describe its bassline. I’m here to talk particularly about a track from that album that is about space – Track 13 Contact. I’m here to talk science.

The Track

The song starts with a broadcast. Pretty soon, with the eerie bassline (again) playing in the background, you are convinced that the radio broadcast is related to space – the broadcast sounds as if taken from a real archived tape. The combined effect of both the broadcast and the music playing creates a very mysterious setting. This is what the person talks in the track –

Hey Bob I’m looking at what Jack was talking about and it’s definitely not a particle that’s nearby. It is a bright object and it’s obviously rotating because it’s flashing, it’s way out in the distance, certainly rotating in a very rhythmic fashion because the flashes come around almost on time. As we look back at the earth it’s up at about 11 o’clock, about maybe ten or twelve diame…Earth diameters. I don’t know whether that does you any good, but there’s something out there.

The guy talking in it describes a “bright flashing object” which he sees in space and ends with a sentence that makes Goosebumps appear on your skin. A heavier bassline ensues. And the following thoughts start rushing into your mind.

Was that an alien ship the man saw in space? Is this some sort of a classified broadcast that got leaked and Daft Punk found it? With all sorts of government and UFO stories floating out there, it seems pretty plausible.

That is what I thought. So I decided to find out.

What is it really?

The astronaut that speaks in the broadcast is the commander of Apollo 17, Gene Cernan.  Disappointingly, it is not an alien ship being described here. Moreover, it isn’t even a leaked tape or something like that. NASA gave this recording to Daft Punk for using it in a track.

The object Gene Cernan describes on the radio was a discarded upper stage of the Saturn V rocket. As a rocket lifts up, discarded parts are normal things. This one, as things in space would, was spinning rhythmically and was reflecting sunlight at regular intervals. That explains, “Because the flashes come around almost on time”.

Yes, that’s all. Indeed, the track makes it sound very interesting. Probably that ability, to make seemingly mundane things sound appealing, is what makes Daft Punk so popular.


I see people coming here, reading and leaving. If there is someone reading this, I’d want to hear from you something (see below). Please, give me a comment below. If you’d like to be anonymous, be that. But just one comment. Yes, it matters a lot to me. Answer this:

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The Evil Lunar Dust

By Anupum Pant

Space exploration is a tough job. Besides a myriad of challenges that have to be dealt with, space equipment and astronauts travelling to places like the moon or mars, have to deal with a peculiarly wicked foe – The dust.

This isn’t the kind of normal dust we deal with here on earth. ‘Downright evil’ is the phrase that describes the dust on moon! We may not realize it, but lunar dust is a filthy thing and causes a lot of problems. Of course, the dust on mars is no better.

Back in 1972

For instance, let us see how moon dust makes things complicated for engineers and astronauts.

Most of the upper surface of the moon is covered with a mixture of loose material comprising of dust, soil, rocks and pebbles (and other random stuff too). Normally, at places, this layer of mixture ranges from 4 to 6 meters in thickness.

The fine part of this mixture is called the lunar soil and is significantly different from the soil found on earth. It is present almost everywhere on the surface of the moon and is a result of breaking of rocks into small particles by meteorite and micrometeorite impacts; also there is no wind and rain to soften the pieces. This is the part of that loose stuff which is known for causing immense troubles.

The dust is super-fine and extremely hard. You can think of it as collection of little shards of glass. Despite being completely dry, it sticks to everything it touches and as it is super-fine, it can get into tiny creases. If inhaled, it can be toxic; like millions of tiny sharp shards piercing into the inner walls of your respiratory system. A tiny amount of it can eventually kill a full grown man.

Back in 1972, the Apollo 17’s crew learnt this as soon as they stepped out. The dust started clogging their air vents and started dropping the pressure. When returning to their space capsule, Jack Schmitt and Eugene Cernan forgot to brush off the dust. They were stuck with it for the whole time during their journey back home. Some of the dust went airborne in the craft and Schmitt started complaining of congestion. Fortunately, the amount was too small to hurt them a lot. Soon the symptoms subsided and space agencies learnt a lesson – Find a way to deal with the lunar dust.

On mars: Dust on mars can travel places due to dust storms and cause more problems.


Scientists at NASA found a great way to deal with this dust using an electric zap. They were able to develop electrical fields which can clear about 99% of the dust from the equipment. These dust shields will be tried on in the year 2016.