One of the highest profile and anticipated personal spaceflight missions was that of soprano and classical crossover performer and recording star, Sarah Brightman. Since she was a child, having watched the Apollo 11 Moon landing in July 1969, she had a dream of making a journey into space.
“Being lucky enough to have watched the first man land on the Moon,” Brightman said in a London press conference on March 10, 2015, “we thought we were going to be astronauts. It was all about space [back then]. For me to have got this far and to be able to have a taste of what I felt at the time, is an amazing thing.”
Like many others who witnessed the first American astronauts to walk on the surface of the Moon, Brightman harbored the dream of one day going into space herself. She did not know how that might come about, but she always carried this dream with her. She continued her musical training and entered the Arts Education School in 1971. The die was cast, and Brightman embarked on a path that lead her to stardom and worldwide fame. She focused on theater performance and later, her voice as a soprano having received her formal training at the Royal College of Music.
During the 1980s and the 1990s, Brightman continued to build a recording and performing career around the world. In 2001, she learned with interest of the flight of Dennis Tito to the International Space Station, arranged by Space Adventures. She became even more intrigued at the possibility when she read about Anousheh Ansari—the first female spaceflight participant—who achieved her own dream of going into space for an eight day mission aboard the ISS in 2006.
Brightman’s 2012 announcement and subsequent training
In October 2012, Brightman was in Moscow to attend a press conference and to make a dramatic announcement. Also present were Alexey Krasnov, chief of Roscosmos’ Piloted Programs Department, Eric Anderson, Chairman of Space Adventures, Ltd. and Neil Ford of UNESCO. Being the consummate entertainer and performer, the conference opened with a music video showing film clips of Sarah Brightman’s childhood interspaced with historic footage from American and Russian manned space missions, with a musical overlay of her singing ‘Angel,’ from her forthcoming CD, Dreamchaser.
“I am pleased to announce that Sarah Brightman has been selected to participate in our spaceflight training program,” Krasnov announced, as quoted in a Space Adventures press release of October 12, 2012. “This past July, Ms. Brightman completed and passed all the required medical and physical evaluations; she’s fit and mentally prepared for our spaceflight training program. We will work closely with Space Adventures in supporting Ms. Brightman’s spaceflight candidacy.”
“I don’t think of myself as a dreamer,” Brightman said in a prepared statement. “Rather, I am a dream chaser. I hope that I can encourage others to take inspiration from my journey both to chase down their own dreams and to help fulfill the important UNESCO mandate to promote peace and sustainable development on Earth and from space. I am determined that this journey can reach out to be a force for good, a catalyst for some of the dreams and aims of others that resonate with me.”
Due to her own contractual agreements and the mission and training schedules at Star City, her mission training would not begin for two years. Finally, in January 2015, she flew to Moscow to begin her intensive training program. This would involve months of classroom education (including four hours of Russian every day), simulator, centrifuge and biomedical training, wilderness survival training, microgravity parabolic flight training and studies of the capsule systems, launch vehicle and even docking hardware. Brightman put her performing schedule on hold up to and through her space mission to the ISS.
She has used the power of her Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep her worldwide fan base fully informed of her training and education at the Yuri A. Gagarin Research and Test Cosmonaut Training Center. The Sarah Brightman known for her stunning beauty and dazzling costumes as a performing diva had been set aside to reveal a Brightman without makeup and wearing glasses, looking for all the world like a 50-something space scientist.
In March 2015, she posted the design of the mission patch “Chasing Dreams – Shaping Futures” with elements she contributed to. The four-pointed star at the top referred to Star City. Beneath it was a silhouette of the International Space Station. In the center of the patch was a soaring image of a woman Brightman wanted to symbolize the possibilities for girls and young women around the world. Behind this woman is a graphic of the Moon to honor the Apollo 11 lunar landing that had inspired Brightman for years. Beneath the Moon was a partial view of the Earth showing the British Isles—her homeland. The three flags of Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States formed the basis of a launching spacecraft.
An aria from space
Brightman worked with her former husband, theatrical music composer Andrew Lloyd Weber, on a special vocal composition to inspire children and especially girls in the pursuit of their dreams.
“What I would love to do is sing something very simple, and connect with either orchestra, choir, other singers on Earth,” she told Russia Today. “And you know, from that sort of space-to-Earth connections, I would like to create something really beautiful.”
Brightman is a UNESCO Artist for Peace Ambassador. To quote from a Space Adventures press release, “Brightman will advocate for UNESCO’s mandate to promote peace and sustainable development to safeguard our planet’s future.” She is also involved with the Challenger Center and planned to increase awareness of this inspiring organization with locations around the world.
The surprise mission postponement
On May 13, 2015, Sarah Brightman posted on her Twitter and Facebook pages this statement: “Postponement of Flight Plans – Sarah Brightman announced today that she is postponing her plans to launch aboard the upcoming Soyuz TMA-18M spaceflight mission. Ms. Brightman said that for personal family reasons her intentions have had to change and she is postponing her cosmonaut training and flight plans at this time. She would like to express her extreme gratitude to Roscosmos, Energia, GCTC (Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center), Star City, NASA and all the cosmonauts and astronauts, for their support during this exciting time in her life.”
And then something very curious happened. Brightman stopped posting on her social media and her website stopped posting updates. She had posted faithfully and daily since she had started training in January 2015, but on May 13, 2015 she stopped completely. Days, weeks and two months passed without a single word from the world’s most famous soprano.
In terms of global social media, two months of silence is practically a lifetime. No one in the mainstream press or even in fan blogs mentioned this absence and silence. No one thought it odd.
And then on July 21, 2015, this was posted on her Twitter page: “I just wanted to thank all of you for your understanding and lovely messages of support that you have expressed to both myself and my family.”
Brightman has not revealed the details behind her undoubtedly disappointing decision to postpone her mission to the International Space Station. She had been totally committed to achieving her dream, only to have to put it on hold. Her countless fans, and those who believe in personal spaceflight, will have to wait along with her until the day she sings of her joy while orbiting the Earth.