We learned that Lady Gaga had secured herself a 2015 Virgin Galactic ticket and consequently, a chapter in Curiosity Rover’s Burn Book—with plans to become “the first artist to sing in outer space.” Us Weekly reports that the performance will last for one track, and the flight will take place during “the Zero G Colony high-tech musical festival in New Mexico.”
Left with myriad intergalactic-Gaga questions—Are meat costumes kosher in space? What is the best way to affix lobster-head prosthetics in zero gravity? Will Virgin let her customize her space suit into some kind of Muppet-fabulous couture?—we reached out to space expert and Space.com managing editor Tariq Malik. His educated answers to all of our Gaga-goes-to-space questions are below.
Julie Miller: What was your initial response to the news that Lady Gaga would sing in space in 2015?
Tariq Malik: I always think that when celebrities get on private space flights it’s exciting. The more, the merrier. I’m not sure how soon she would get up there. Both Beyoncé and Justin Bieber—whom I call the Biebernaut—have tickets, so I’m not sure she’ll be the first one or not. There might be some competition there.
Are you saying that noted space journal Us Weekly may have inaccurately reported that Lady Gaga would be the first to sing in space?
I think Beyoncé and Justin Bieber said they wanted to record a music video too, and this was years ago that they bought their [Virgin Galactic] tickets. I’m not sure who’s ahead of who in the line.
This just got a lot more exciting. Do you think Lady Gaga’s expedition is driven by her genuine curiosity about outer space or by her genuine curiosity about P.R. stunts?
I think that any time celebrities are involved in these space flights, publicity is always one big part of it. We all know that celebrities have the money to buy these tickets, which are like $250,000. If they have money to buy a yacht or a trip around the world, there is no reason why they shouldn’t spend [their money] going to space.
Do you think singing is a natural first step in intergalactic entertainment? Should we have started out with something more introductory, like dancing or an acoustic-guitar performance?
Actually singing is probably the easiest because you only need your own voice. Dancers might need a costume or something like that. On these flights with Virgin Galactic, the period where you are weightless is very, very short—maybe a few minutes. It would be difficult with an instrument because you have to worry about it floating away.
What physical challenges will she face, if any, while singing?
The most difficult part, for anyone, is going to be the launch. She will be in a rocket and will have to withstand the initial G-forces. Once she gets up into space, gravity drops away, and it can be really disorienting. I took a zero-G flight this summer, and it was a big surprise when we tried it out. She’ll have to prepare for space sickness because she won’t want to sing if she’s throwing up all of the time.
How do you prevent space sickness?
They actually have a lot of medicines you can take and preparation you can do. They might have some kind of pre-launch training to go through. When we went on our flight, they gave us a shot of Scopolamine, which is the same shot they give the astronauts. It makes you a little drowsy but it does counteract, for the most part, the really sickening parts of weightlessness.
Are there any side effects that would affect her performance, aside from drowsiness?
I should mention that one of the big side effects of that medicine is dry mouth, and I experienced that firsthand. She might want to take a water bottle that she can take a sip from on the way up.
I hope she reads this Q&A before going up! I’m getting nervous for everyone in the ship because of all of the audio-and-video equipment required for her live performance.
One of the interesting things about these Virgin Galactic flights is that they already have camera equipment recording everyone that is on these flights, which can hold six passengers each. It could just be that she goes up there on her own, knows where those cameras are going to be, and sings to those, and not have to worry about her own video equipment. She might want a microphone and pin it to her flight suit.
What are the chances that Gaga will be able to customize her Virgin-issue space suit into something fabulous with the help of her Haus of Gaga?
Virgin Galactic does have people designing their space suits. We’re expecting them to be something between a jump suit and a pressure system to keep them at least marginally safe on the spacecraft. I would imagine there might be some room for personal embellishments, like a patch or maybe some color or something like that. She would find that out closer to launch.
She is reportedly taking her “glam squad” up into space with her. What should the glam squad know about costume, makeup, and prosthetic-animal-head application in zero gravity?
Well, if she is taking her glam team with her, she might be renting out the entire flight, which would be great because then she wouldn’t have to worry about other passengers who maybe aren’t fans. If she has a five-person team with her, they can each bring a part of her costume and put it together on the way up before they get to the weightlessness stage, or have it ready to just attach it to her. I would say the biggest piece of advice I could give is to think about how much time it takes you to get out items and how you will attach it.
When I went on my flight, I tried to pull out a T-shirt—just a Space.com T-shirt—and I couldn’t get it out of the pocket on the flight suit. We only had 30 seconds of weightlessness, but she will have some continuous minutes. So she should think about it ahead of time and figure out who is doing what and where things are, and practice it.
If I see Lady Gaga, I’m going to suggest she hire you as a technical consultant.
Velcro might be great for Lady Gaga. She might just have to put on a whole bunch of breakaway stuff. She could even have multiple costumes on the flight.
What are the acoustics like in space?
Similar to that of a passenger jet. There will be a lot of background noise with the rocket engine and fans whirring and the pressure.
The T.S.A. has a list of prohibited items for flight passengers. When it comes to these Virgin Galactic flights, are there certain materials or substances that are not allowed, that Lady Gaga should not bring? Just want to cover all of our bases here.
Virgin will have that list and give that to her, but she probably should not bring things that could start fires. If she has one of those Hunger Games fire dresses, she should not take that. [Laughs.] And probably anything that would make a mess on the flight when they get to zero gravity.
Do you think alien life forms will be less threatened by Lady Gaga given her otherworldly costumes than they would be by more human-like pop stars like Taylor Swift or One Direction?
I don’t think they will know what to make of anyone up there. But if she wears her meat costume, they might find that a little more enticing!