Will.i.am with NASA astronautFor the first time in history, a recorded song was beamed back to Earth from another planet. Will.i.am’s new composition, “Reach for the Stars,” traveled 300 million miles to the ears of students gathered yesterday at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., after it was transmitted from the surface of Mars by the Curiosity rover.

The techno-rapper wrote the first interplanetary song as an anthem for NASA education. “Today is about inspiring young people to lead a life without limits placed on their potential and to pursue collaboration between humanity and technology through education,” he said. (Watch the video and hear the song below.)

Will.i.am, who promotes science and mathematics education, was among the celebrities invited to watch Curiosity’s landing earlier this month, according to the CS Monitor.

Before the opening orchestral strains of “Reach for the Stars” filled the auditorium, NASA Associate Administrator for Education and shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin said, “I can think of no greater way to honor NASA pioneer Neil Armstrong’s life and legacy than to inspire today’s students to follow his path. Perhaps one of our students here today or watching on NASA Television will be the first to set foot on the surface of Mars and continue humanity’s quest to explore.

The song, never-before heard on Earth, had been uploaded to Curiosity after its landing on the red planet.

NASA engineers spoke to the two busloads of youth, who traveled from will.i.am’s childhood neighborhood, about the Curiosity mission, and the mechanics involved in getting the song file back from Mars. Students had the opportunity to ask questions and received a guided tour of JPL to view rover models and learn about career options.

During the event, will.i.am’s i.am angel Foundation and Discovery Education announced a $10 million classroom education initiative that will reach 25 million students annually, including many from underserved communities. Focused on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) educational themes, the Discovery Education initiative will incorporate NASA content and space exploration themes as part of the curriculum.

WATCH the historic moment and the NASA engineers reacting to the orchestral tune:

The event will be replayed on NASA Television. For schedule information, visit: www.nasa.gov/ntv

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