But long before the musician's health declined, a tribute to one of his most memorable works had taken the Internet by storm. The year was 2013, and astronaut Chris Hadfield performed the Bowie classic "Space Oddity" – in space. Watch it below (28 million people already have), and look back on the other videos that had captivated YouTubers that year, too.
Originally published Nov. 26, 2013: 2013 will go down as the year the viral video industrial complex went on steroids. More outlets than ever jumped on the YouTube beat, and with so much competition, the viral video world became a true meritocracy.
No longer could mediocre clips like Obama Girl spread like wildfire among a bored populace. Now, only the best videos could rise to the top, whether they were an unusual exercise trend,a doomed Drake-inspired pickup attempt, or these ten favorites from the past calendar year. What happens next will astound you...
10. Toddler Hears Dad for the First Time
1.3M views and counting
Three-year-old Grayson Clamp was born with CHARGE syndrome, a congenital disease that leads to deafness and blindness in newborns. With the help of doctors at the University of North Carolina, Grayson was able to receive an auditory brainstem implant, which led to this heartwarming footage of him hearing something he'd never heard before: his father's voice.
9. Goats That Yell Like Taylor Swift
3.8M views and counting
Sometimes, the sequel is better than the original. "Goats Yelling Like Humans" was already a major hit in its own right, but it took an anonymous wag's inspired idea to add the screaming goats into the dubstep drop of Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" to create a mashup for the ages.
8. Patrick Stewart Explains the Quadruple Take
3.9M views and counting
Patrick Stewart moved to Brooklyn in 2013, and soon he was all over the Internet – protesting domestic violence, bromancing Ian McKellan, and dressing as a lobster for Halloween. But our favorite Sir Patrick moment came this summer, when the former Jean-Luc Picard demonstrated his mastery of comedic form.
7. Charles Ramsey Interviewed After Finding Amanda Berry
6.3M views and counting
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight had been missing for years, and many Cleveland residents were beginning to doubt they'd ever be found. But on May 6, Berry was able to escape from the home of kidnapper Ariel Castro with the help of neighbors Angel Cordero and Charles Ramsey. Ramsey's interview with the local news in the aftermath of the rescue showed the courage and humility of an ordinary man who had heroism thrust upon him.
6. Zach Sobiech and "Clouds"
11M views and counting
We can't talk about viral videos in 2013 without talking about Upworthy, the website that made its mission to help emotionally affecting videos spread across the web. The story of Zach Sobiech, a young man who dedicated his life to music after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis, proved a perfect example of what the site could do – with the help of a new word, the site spread Zach's message to more than 11 million people.
5. Mila Kunis Charms Awkward British Interviewer
12M views and counting
Press junkets are horrible. Celebrities know it, journalists know it, and the public to the extent that they are aware of them, knows it too. So give credit to Oz the Great and Powerful's Mila Kunis for dispensing with the familiarities and talking to a nervous reporter like a normal person would, cementing her status as the ultimate Cool Girl.
4. The Ultimate Twerking Fail Hoax
17M views and counting
After Miley Cyrus's controversial appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards, twerking ruled the Internet. As America hungered for more news about the cheeky dance craze, Jimmy Kimmel gave us all exactly what we asked for in the form of the viral hoax of the year, "Worst Twerk Fail Ever – Girl Catches on Fire!"". When Kimmel revealed he had orchestrated the entire stunt, we all had to think long and hard about our choices as a society.
3. "Space Oddity" Performed in Space
19M views and counting
Months before Gravity, astronaut Chris Hadfield did Sandra Bullock one better, filming a music video for the David Bowie classic "Space Oddity" about the International Space Station. Hadfield changed the lyrics – goodbye lyrics about dying alone in space, hello lyrics about the wonders of orbit – and in the process, the Internet's favorite astronaut became our highest-flying rock star.
2. The Harlem Shake
50M views and counting
In February, a techno song by a white DJ, which sampled the work of a rap group from Philly and a Puerto Rican reggaeton star, shot to no. 1 on the charts, thanks to a strange blend of bored teenagers, hip tech companies and one well-timed Billboard rule change. This is the way culture works today – messy, context-less free association producing a brand of silliness the likes of which we've never seen before.
1. What Does the Fox Say?
245M views and counting
Foxes aren't barnyard animals, which means Old McDonald never got around to telling us exactly what sound they made. That's where Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis came in, with a bizarre music video that attempted to solve the mystery once and for all. They didn't come close at all, really – foxes in real like sound like this – but they did give us the biggest viral video phenomenon of the year.