Astronauts Slam Beyoncé's Sampling Challenger Space Shuttle Explosion Audio

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 30 2013 5:08 PM

Astronauts Slam Beyoncé's Sampling Challenger Space Shuttle Explosion Audio

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Beyonce performs during the Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show.

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Sampling of other artists’ work from time-to-time ruffles singers’ and songwriters’ feathers, but, it’s part of the music business these days. Sampling audio of a historical event is less common, so there are fewer rules of the road dictating do’s and don’t's. Beyoncé’s new single "XO," however, seems to have helped define what not to do when using actual events to sell pop songs.

In the song, Beyoncé uses audio from the space shuttle Challenger, which launched from Kennedy Space Center Jan. 28, 1986. The shuttle’s flight lasted only 73 seconds, when Challenger exploded killing all seven of the crew on board. In the video’s opening seconds, haunting audio can be heard from the broadcast of Mission Control center that day, saying: "flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction.”

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The decision to use audio from the Challenger tragedy isn’t sitting well with those involved. Several NASA astronauts expressed their disapproval to ABC News “at what they say is Beyoncé's use of a tragedy to sell a pop song.” June Scobee Rodgers, whose husband was the commander of the Challenger shuttle told ABC News: "We were disappointed to learn that an audio clip from the day we lost our heroic Challenger crew was used in the song 'XO.' The moment included in this song is an emotionally difficult one for the Challenger families, colleagues and friends. We have always chosen to focus not on how our loved ones were lost, but rather on how they lived and how their legacy lives on today."

Beyoncé released a statement to ABC News trying to explain the decision: "My heart goes out to the families of those lost in the Challenger disaster. The song 'XO' was recorded with the sincerest intention to help heal those who have lost loved ones and to remind us that unexpected things happen, so love and appreciate every minute that you have with those who mean the most to you.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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