Flutes in Space

Photo courtesy of NASA

There’s one special Powell Flute that is out of this world—literally! Colonel Cady Coleman, United States astronaut, brought several flutes with her aboard the International Space Station, making the flute the first wind instrument in space.

“Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull plays our instruments and recommended that Cady contact us to test instruments,” says Christina Giuliano-Copas, marketing manager at Powell. “She was looking for a special new instrument to take with her to the International Space Station.”

Coleman plays flute in Clan Ceili, a Celtic band, and in Bandella, a folk quartet made up of fellow astronauts and another astronauts’ wife. In order to keep up her skills and practice in space, she decided to bring the flutes on her mission despite strict weight requirements for the astronaut’s personal belongings.

“Cady has a handmade conservatory sterling silver flute,” Giuliano-Copas says. “She tested a large selection of flutes and settled on this one. Since silver weighs less than gold, it was a favorable choice.”

While in space, Coleman recorded a duet via satellite with Anderson and has sent several videos of herself playing. “Every time Cady creates a new video of her playing in space, we are all in awe,” Giuliano-Copas says. “It is simply incredible to know that an instrument we produced is so far away, in such a remote place, yet it bring the same enjoyment to the owner.”

Upon returning to Earth, Coleman’s Powell Flute headjoint will be engraved and put on display at the 2011 National Flute Association Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

The other flutes that Coleman brought aboard are her personal flute, a penny whistle and an old Irish flute from Paddy Moloney and Matt Molloy, respectively, of The Chieftains.