CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Just a day away from landing, Discovery's astronauts received the first-ever live wake-up music in the history of the shuttle program Tuesday, a tune written in honor of the world's most traveled spaceship.
Discovery is on the verge of ending its nearly 27-year flying career. It's scheduled to return to Earth on Wednesday for the last time.
NASA will spend several months decommissioning Discovery, then send it to the Smithsonian Institution to live out its days.
Before Tuesday morning, a shuttle crew had never awakened to a live music performance before from Mission Control.
The lead guitarist of Big Head Todd and the Monsters performed a solo version of "Blue Sky." The group wrote the song at the request of the 2005 crew of Discovery, which returned NASA to orbit following the Columbia tragedy. It ended up the top vote-getter in NASA's pick-the-wake-up-music contest to mark the end of the shuttle program, just a few months away with only two mission remaining.
Shuttle commander Steven Lindsey thanked Mission Control for the special recording. He didn't realize the acoustic performance was live until Todd Park Mohr radioed greetings.
"Did you just do that live?" Lindsey asked.
"I did just do that live, and I believe it's a first in history," replied Mohr. "On behalf of Big Head Todd and the Monsters, and songwriters and artists everywhere, we just want to thank you so much for your courage and your bravery and your effort in just giving all of us a better shot at knowing more."
Lindsey said he and his five crewmates wish everyone could see what astronauts see when they look down at Earth. "Hopefully, everybody will be able to do that one of these days," he said. "Hopefully sooner than later."
On Monday, Mission Control beamed up a prerecorded message by actor William Shatner of 1960s "Star Trek" fame, in honor of Discovery's final mission. "Theme from Star Trek" was the music contest runner-up.
Commander Steven Lindsey and his crew tested Discovery's flight systems on the eve of their return. Everything checked out fine.
Discovery departed from the International Space Station on Monday, leaving behind a newly installed storage compartment and equipment platform, as well as the first humanoid robot in space. The shuttle will wrap up its 13-day mission with a noontime touchdown Wednesday, weather permitting. Good weather is forecast.
Discovery is the first of NASA's three shuttles to be retired. Many at NASA contend that the fleet still has lots of flying lifetime left. But the space agency is under presidential direction to aim for true outer space, which means giving up the shuttles, which are confined to orbit.
Two shuttle launches remain: Endeavour next month and Atlantis at the end of June.