Queen guitarist Brian May released a new song on New Year’s Eve to mark the voyage of the New Horizons space probe as it passed by the trans-Neptunian object Ultima Thule. It’s the farthest object in the solar system that a spacecraft has visited, and it took 12 years to get there. “New horizons to explore, new horizons no one’s ever seen before,” May sings to a propulsive beat on the song, “New Horizons (Ultima Thule Mix).” The four-minute song contains well-orchestrated rock riffs, a typically soaring guitar solo and plenty of Queen-style vocal harmonies. He described the song as “an anthem to human endeavor.”
The ship’s voyage was especially meaningful to May, an astrophysicist, since he had joined NASA’s science team as a collaborator on the project in 2015. “You know, this is exploration, almost Victorian-style if you like,” May told NPR yesterday. “It’s just there, so we have to know about it. So the song became about that, you know, the indomitable spirit of man to explore the universe around him.”
Since the New Horizons spacecraft made it to Ultima Thule, May has been using his Instagram account to issue updates about it. Yesterday, he posted a photo of Ultima Thule (taken “five minutes ago”) and captioned it, “The Holy Grail of the Solar System?” He also posted another photo of the object in color.
Incidentally, May’s first-ever solo recording was also a tribute to space travel. In 1983, he released a mini-album, Star Fleet Project, on which he made a hard-rock version of composer Paul Bliss’ theme for British sci-fi series Star Fleet. Billed to “Brian May and Friends,” the song features additional guitar by Eddie Van Halen and backing vocals by Queen’s Roger Taylor, among others.