Place yourself in astronaut Chris Sembroksi's moon boots for a second. You have to pack before being launched into space. You've got your freeze-dried ice cream, a spare set of underwear, a toothbrush. What else do you need?
Well, in Sembroksi's case, he is taking a custom-made Martin ukulele. Sure, one could argue that in space it is a luxury but if you are going to take a stringed instrument, the uke is a practical, compact choice. This one in particular is made from sustainable sinker mahogany, and it even has the Inspiration4 mission logo inlaid on the fingerboard.
Better still, the soprano ukulele will later be signed by the crew and auctioned off for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, with the mission hoping to raise $200 million.
Sembroksi's ukulele is totally unique, with its detailed inlay work carried out by Martin's master craftsman Brent Williams. And according to Martin, it joins a number of its instruments that have made the journey to far-flung frontiers and, indeed, the final frontier.
Admiral Richard Byrd took a Martin ukulele along with him on his 1926 mission to the North Pole – bet he enjoyed playing that with frosty fingers. While a Martin Backpacker travel guitar became the first six-string in space when astronaut Pierre Thout took one on the the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1994.
In space, no one can hear you scream, but they can hear you strum. And while we have no evidence of Sembroksi's chops on video, we'd like to think he has spent some of his training hours adapting Joe Satriani's Surfing With The Alien for uke – just in case.
The Inspiration4 mission lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on 15 September, and the three-day voyage is the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit. It is commanded by Jared Isaacman, who when not skippering space craft is the 38-year-old founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments. You can read more about it here.