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All aboard the International Space Station

international space stationWe’re on board the International Space Station today, with this amazing sound from the European Space Agency, who describe it like this:

Ever wonder how the International Space Station alarms sounds?

This emergency alert is the last thing astronauts on the ISS ever want to hear as they work 400 km above Earth in the vacuum of space.

The alarm is sounded on the International Space Station to alert astronauts to life-threatening emergencies such as loss of pressure or fire.

The astronauts would immediately convene near their Soyuz spacecraft that serve as lifeboats, but these kind of emergencies are extremely rare and the alarm has sounded only a handful of times despite the Space Station having been inhabited since 2000.

Most astronauts on a six-month space flight will only ever hear the sound during a practice session. Regular ‘fire-drills’ are performed to make sure that even in a worst-case scenario everybody knows what to do.

Mission controllers from the international partners that run the Space Station in Russia, USA, Europe and Japan re-enact scenarios with the astronauts in space. In critical situations the teams on ground need to communicate efficiently, act quickly and coordinate a solution between each other and the astronauts flying 400 km above them.

City version:


Andy Gillham took this sound on to reimagine, and he writes of his methods:

“I wanted to try and create a hallucinatory sense of floating through a star field – having just been jettisoned from a malfunctioning and disintegrating ISS in a space suit with little oxygen.

“The last sound running through your mind as your air runs low is the ISS alarm. As you slowly sink into sleep the alarm appears and re-appears, sometimes morphing beyond recognition.

“I use the sample pretty much unprocessed at both the beginning and end of the track – then heavily process it across the central section of the piece, randomly and quickly transposing sections of it and applying effects.

“I used a generative modular patch to create a sense of a star field and combined this with epic yet melancholic melodies. The tempo slows across the final quarter of the track as our unfortunate space explorer falls asleep and floats off into the stars.”

Memory version: