It was 40 years ago that Sarah Brightman ‘lost her heart to a Starship Trooper’, the cringey but catchy novelty record that helped launch her career. Since then via Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals (and marriage), performing at not one but two Olympic Games closing ceremonies and being every major male recording artist’s duet partner of choice – from José Carreras to Cliff Richard, Andrea Bocelli to Paul Stanley from Kiss – Brightman has become the world’s most successful soprano in terms of record sales. But her heart is still lost in space.
In 2012 Brightman enrolled in the Russian space programme, undergoing astronaut training for several months in 2015 (at her own astronomical expense). In the end, she had to withdraw from her flight due to “personal family reasons” but the experience was still life-changing.
Our planet is delicate, but we don’t really know the meaning of that
“Psychologically you have to start thinking in a completely different way,” Brightman says, speaking on the phone from her apartment in New York. “You thought deeply about how our planet is. How humankind is. Deeper than you would ever normally think.
“One always says that we’re so delicate and our planet is delicate, but we don’t really know the meaning of that. Really, there’s not a lot out there in space – nothing that we can get to anyway – so our time should be working on all the social problems we have, looking after this planet because it could be gone in a flash at any time.”
Brightman trained for up to 16 hours a day at Star City near Moscow, preparing for a mission aboard a Soyuz rocket, the only transportation currently ferrying crew to the International Space Station, and the model that failed last month resulting in a forced emergency landing. The risk is always present.
“I’ve come across crews that have gone through the same thing,” Brightman says. “The record is great with these things, but they’re dangerous at the same time. You know, we’re not really meant to be meant to be jumping off from here.”