Pop Culture

Beyonce criticized for sampling audio from shuttle Challenger disaster

Rob Hoffman / Today

Beyoncé's sampling of audio from the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster on her new song "XO" is being criticized by former NASA astronauts and family members.

The song, part of the surprise new album the singer released on Dec. 13, opens with the voice of Steve Nesbitt, a former NASA public affairs officer. He can be heard briefly, saying, "Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction."

Seven crew members died when the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch from Kennedy Space Center on Jan. 28, 1986. The astronauts on board included Dick Scobee, Gregory Jarvis, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik and Michael J. Smith, as well as space teacher Christa McAuliffe. 

"We were disappointed to learn that an audio clip from the day we lost our heroic Challenger crew was used in the song 'XO'," June Scobee Rogers, widow of the Challenger commander, said in a statement. "The moment included in this song is an emotionally difficult one for the Challenger families, colleagues and friends. We have always chosen to focus not on how our loved ones were lost, but rather on how they lived and how their legacy lives on today."

Beyoncé said Monday, in a statement obtained by Us Weekly, that she meant to honor, not offend those affected by the tragedy. "My heart goes out to the families of those lost in the Challenger disaster. The song 'XO' was recorded with the sincerest intention to help heal those who have lost loved ones and to remind us that unexpected things happen, so love and appreciate every minute that you have with those who mean the most to you."

The singer also said, "The songwriters included the audio in tribute to the unselfish work of the Challenger crew with hope that they will never be forgotten." 

The video for "XO" shows Beyoncé riding the Cyclone roller coaster and interacting with fans at New York's Coney Island amusement park.

Clayton Anderson, a retired NASA astronaut told ABC News, "For the words to be used in the video is simply insensitive, at the very least."

Released with no notice and no marketing push, the self-titled album "Beyoncé" shot to top of the Billboard charts and quickly achieved platinum status this month.