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Thomas Pesquet with sax
French astronaut Thomas Pesquet shows off his sax on the International Space Station. (NASA / ESA Photo)

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield had his guitar, and NASA astronaut Cady Coleman had her flute: Now French astronaut Thomas Pesquet has his sax in space.

The saxophone was included in the SpaceX Dragon cargo shipment that arrived at the International Space Station on Feb. 23, and Pesquet’s crewmates kept it hidden until his 39th birthday four days later.

Now the sax is out of the bag, thanks to a series of tweets that came out this week:

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer is in the last stages of training in Russia for his own tour of duty on the space station, which is scheduled to start next month. He’ll serve alongside Pesquet until the French spaceflier heads back to Earth aboard a Soyuz spaceship in June.

Pesquet has played the sax for years, and the instrument featured prominently in a portrait that was taken for a Le Monde profile of the astronaut in 2014. That profile referred admiringly to Hadfield’s performance of “Space Oddity” in zero-G.

“It’s a way of communicating, as important to space agencies as to astronauts,” Pesquet is quoted as saying.

The guitar that Hadfield played is a part of the space station’s musical instrument collection, and NASA’s Robert Frost says it’s been strummed by more than a dozen crew members over the years. There’s been a variety of other instruments aboard, including a set of bagpipes and a makeshift didgeridoo.

A different saxophone was carried into space on the shuttle Challenger in 1984. Tragically, the astronaut who played it, Ron McNair, died along with six others when the Challenger broke up just after launch in 1986. Kurt Heisig, an expert on musical instruments, tells the whole story on his website.

During Coleman’s stint on the station in 2011, she made her mark by playing a space-to-Earth flute duet with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. Will Pesquet similarly share the joy of sax? If so, how ’bout a little something from “The Dark Side of the Moon”?

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