How a ukulele sent to orbit in SpaceX launch has DC-area ties

One of the items that went into space in this week’s civilian SpaceX launch was a ukulele. The astronaut who will play it was taught by a musician with D.C.-area roots.

Over the course of about a month before the launch, over Zoom, musician A.J. Smith — who grew up in Fairfax County, Virginia, and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology — taught civilian astronaut Chris Sembroski how to play. Smith plays and works with Martin Guitars.

“They asked ‘Are you down to teach one of the first civilians to go to space how to play the Ukulele?’ and why would I say no to that? It sounds awesome,” Smith said.

Sembroski wanted to learn to play and sing the song “Colors” by Black Pumas, according to Smith.

“He learned how to play an instrument from scratch basically in a month, which is pretty wild on top of all the other stuff that he had to do,” Smith said.

The specially-crafted Martin Ukulele will be signed by the entire SpaceX crew, then be auctioned off for charity.

Smith lives in New York and spends time in Nashville, Tennessee. He has shows coming up locally in Vienna and Annapolis, and a new music video coming out next month. Smith’s

You can find out more about Smith and hear his music on his website.

Kyle Cooper

Anchor and reporter Kyle Cooper, has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana, and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

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