By Greg Cahill
In 2013, in the zero-gravity atmosphere of outer space, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield made history when he reached for a floating Larrivée P-01 parlor guitar to perform the early David Bowie hit “Space Oddity” for a video clip captured live from the International Space Station. The video went viral, garnering millions of views—and Larrivée got the best publicity the solar system had ever seen.
But this was no publicity stunt—Hadfield’s orbital foray into music was part of a NASA psychology program designed to help astronauts better cope with life in space. NASA personnel had selected the Larrivée during a trip to a Guitar Center outlet, where they were looking for a small-body instrument that wouldn’t take up too much room or crimp the mission’s weight requirements.
Now, Larrivée is offering a reissue of the popular International Space Station commemorative version of that guitar.
The limited-edition P-01 ISS features a Sitka spruce top; mahogany back and sides; satin finish; bone nut and saddle; 24-inch scale length; and ebony fingerboard, bridge, and headplate. The nut is a comfortable 1¾-inches wide. The words “ISS Commemorative” are emblazoned beneath an image of the space station and etched onto the heel of the neck.
Packed in a hardshell case, the P-01 ISS commemorative arrives with a certificate of authenticity, autographed by Hadfield, and a copy of the astronaut’s 12-track CD Space Sessions: Songs from a Tin Can, the first album recorded in space.
“It’s cool playing a guitar in space because it floats in front of you—you don’t need a strap,” Hadfield said on a 2013 Larrivée video. “But one of the weirdest things is that as you float around the room while you’re playing, you bump into things.”
Several of the songs on the CD were inspired by Hadfield’s experience aboard the space station. “Feet Up” captures the sense of weightlessness, which the astronaut describes as “glorious and free, a joyous toy that never winds down, a puzzlement of unexpected delights.” “Daughter of My Sins” is built around a guitar riff that popped into Hadfield’s head while orbiting the Earth. “I’d float over into my sleep pod and scribble down lyric ideas,” Hadfield wrote in the liner notes. “By bedtime, it was done and recorded.” But the first song recorded in space, “Jewel in the Night,” is a carol inspired by the view of the big, blue planet below. “Beyond the Terra” was recorded on Hadfield’s last day in space.
The limited-edition P-01 ISS sells for $1,549; a version with electronics sells for $1,849.