NASA collection of samples: use in remixing and “found sound” creative projects

NASA has made a huge collection of audio recordings available under a Creative Commons licence and they are perfect for using in music tech projects with students. The recordings are from historic space flights and from current missions.

I LOVE this collection of sound effects, ambient recordings, astronaut dialogue and speeches from NASA.  Not only is it fascinating to hear real-life sounds recorded in outer-space, the collection includes the original iconic sound-bites from astronauts and staff working in the control center like “Houston, we have a problem”, “That’s one small step…” and the Apollo 11 launch countdown.

You can listen to the sounds and dialogue samples here on Soundcloud.

Using the NASA samples with students

Here are just some of the ways you can use these samples in your lessons:

  1. Conduct a mystery listening quiz – “guess that sound” by playing students a selection of the samples. Award points for the nearest correct guess
  2. Have students choose ONE sample and see how many ways they can edit the recording to produce new, interesting versions of the sample (excellent exercise for developing audio editing skills). They can try any of the following: trim, cut, pitch-shift, lengthen, reverse, speed up, slow down, compress, equalise, repeat and lots more!
  3. Students could sort the samples into low, mid and high sounds
  4. Select one of the dialogue samples (astronauts, ground control, JFK speech) and switch the order of words around: cut up the sample and drag the pieces around like a jigsaw puzzle
  5. Incorporate one of the dialogue recordings (or part of the recording) into a song or other musical composition. The sample could be the central feature of a creative work, or it could be a small part of the work.
  6. Choose low, mid and high samples (they could be edited versions of the samples) to make a “space drum pattern”: in your digital audio workstation, place each of the samples in specific positions in the bar to piece together a drum pattern
  7. Create a full-blown “found sounds” (Ok – so it’s difficult to refer to NASA sound samples “found sounds” but you know what I mean!) piece consisting of a drum pattern (see number 6), other percussive parts and melodic parts – all by using edited/manipulated samples


Tip: provide students with a short-list of sounds

One tip I can offer is to select a range of the sound effects and samples and download them ahead of class time for your students.  Doing this achieves a few things:

  • Students won’t need to spend valuable class time searching, listening and downloading the sounds themselves. They can get straight on to the creative part of the project
  • There are an overwhelming number of sounds available! In my experience, students work more effectively when provided with a short-list of sounds to use rather than a huge, long list
  • You can determine the type of sound samples the students will work with.  The collection I downloaded includes some space sound effects, some dialogue and some launch sounds.

The NASA sounds collection I downloaded includes the following:

  • “Houston we have a problem”
  • “One small step”
  • Apollo 11 countdown
  • “The eagle has landed”
  • “Roger roll”
  • The John F Kennedy speech – “We choose the moon”
  • Launch sound effect
  • Kepler star sound effect
  • Sputnik beep
  • Spooky Saturn sound effect
  • Quindar tone sound effect
  • and a few more!

Members of the Midnight Music Community can save themselves a bit of time and download my actual collection – simply log in and head to the Music Tech Resource Bank forum area.

Online training for these projects

I’m currently developing some of these projects for inclusion in the new online courses I’m putting together for GarageBand, Mixcraft and Soundtrap and Audacity. There will be videos introducing the project, plus a walk-through of the how-to steps involved for each software program.

The courses will be available inside the Midnight Music Community – along with all the other online music tech training that’s already there.  If you’re a current member, you don’t need to do anything – you’ll have access as soon as the training materials are available.  If you’re not a member and you’d like to join so you can access training (plus any new training that’s added), head here.


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