News / Science & Technology

Voyager Carries Gold Record into Interstellar Space

NASA's Golden Record is attached to both  Voyager 1 and 2.
NASA's Golden Record is attached to both Voyager 1 and 2.
Richard Paul
Last weekend, the Voyager spacecraft, launched from Earth in 1977, left the solar system and headed into interstellar space.  As it did, the ship carried an unusual calling card, designed to introduce Earth to any alien being that the Voyager might pass.

Traveling now billions of kilometers out in space are the voices and sounds of humans and animals living on Earth in 1977.  They are bolted to the side of Voyager 1 in the form of a gold-plated phonograph record containing the sounds of our planet.

"The record is a conventional long-playing phonograph record except that it is made of copper and it is covered in gold and then it is put inside a titanium case to protect it,” said Tim Ferris, who mixed the audio that went on the record.

Voyager Carries Gold Record into Interstellar Space
Voyager Carries Gold Record into Interstellar Spacei
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

Ferris was one of a small group of people who worked to convince NASA to attach the record to Voyager’s side.  The original idea, according to Annie Druyan, another member of the group, came from astronomer Frank Drake, at the University of California.

“We wanted to convey to the extraterrestrials that we imagined what it was like to be alive in the beautiful Spring of 1977, and it seemed to Frank that at the time that the best way to compress as much information as possible in a very small space was to do it on a phonograph record,” she said.

And there’s plenty of information there.  The record contains greetings in 59 human languages. It has 118 pictures of life on earth, and 27 pieces of music exemplifying the diversity of human creation. 

“There is music on the record from Europe and the United States,” said Ferris.  "But also from Africa, the South Pacific and South America... Georgia, Russia, all these places - China, India."

Shortly after American astronauts returned from space in 1968, NASA released a photograph of the Earth rising from behind the Moon.  According to Margaret Weitekamp, a curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, that photo deeply touched people like Drake and his partner on the gold record project, the scientist and TV celebrity Carl Sagan.

She said,“Knowing that that picture was taken by a human being I think profoundly changed the thoughts of these people and really made them start thinking about ‘If we are this pale blue dot in this ocean of vastness, then how do we communicate something about who we are?’”

It made them think carefully about how they might convey the greetings, the art and the talent of all humanity…not just the nation that sent the spacecraft up.
   
“The Voyager record represents a step along a long process of humans realizing that we are not at the center of the universe and that our story is probably far from being the only story,” Ferris said

The technology they used may seem archaic today.  But actually, Weitekamp says it has advantages over some of today’s gadgets.

“It's a really durable technology that has proven to be a great way to record sound," she said. "If you have digital sound, you have to have the right software in order to decode it or it doesn’t work.”

And she says, if a spacecraft were launched today with a message for aliens, it might still be a wise technology to use.  So that’s the medium.  As for the message they chose, Ferris says you couldn’t have picked anything better.

“You can't say that an Indian raga or a piece by Bach or a Japanese Shakuhachi piece ‘means’ something that you can put into words. It is its own end product," he said. "It means really what it is. Similar to things in nature. A flower isn't a way of expressing something else. It is the end product. It is what it is.”

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Markt
September 20, 2013 7:30 AM
“It's a really durable technology that has proven to be a great way to record sound," she said. "If you have digital sound, you have to have the right software in order to decode it or it doesn’t work.”

Well, I hope any aliens out there, someone owns a phonograph, otherwise its just a gold plated disk...without a record player it still won't work.

In Response

by: Richard Paul from: Washington DC
September 21, 2013 12:40 PM
They actually did include a phonograph. It's not assembled, but they included instructions on how to assemble it.


by: Babu G. Ranganathan
September 19, 2013 10:58 AM
SCIENCE SHOWS THAT THE UNIVERSE CANNOT BE ETERNAL because it could not have sustained itself eternally due to the law of entropy (increasing energy decay, even in an open system). Einstein showed that space, matter, and time all are physical and all had a beginning. Space even produces particles because it’s actually something, not nothing. Even time had a beginning! Time is not eternal. Popular atheistic scientist Stephen Hawking admits that the universe came from nothing but he believes that nothing became something by a natural process yet to be discovered. That's not rational thinking at all, and it also would be making the effect greater than its cause to say that nothing created something. The beginning had to be of supernatural origin because natural laws and processes do not have the ability to bring something into existence from nothing. What about the Higgs boson (the so-called “God Particle”)? The Higgs boson does not create mass from nothing, but rather it converts energy into mass. Einstein showed that all matter is some form of energy.

The supernatural cannot be proved by science but science points to a supernatural intelligence and power for the origin and order of the universe. Where did God come from? Obviously, unlike the universe, God’s nature doesn’t require a beginning.

EXPLAINING HOW AN AIRPLANE WORKS doesn't mean no one made the airplane. Explaining how life or the universe works doesn't mean there was no Maker behind them. Natural laws may explain how the order in the universe works and operates, but mere undirected natural laws cannot explain the origin of that order. Once you have a complete and living cell then the genetic code and biological machinery exist to direct the formation of more cells, but how could life or the cell have naturally originated when no directing code and mechanisms existed in nature? Read my Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM.

WHAT IS SCIENCE? Science simply is knowledge based on observation. No one observed the universe coming by chance or by design, by creation or by evolution. These are positions of faith. The issue is which faith the scientific evidence best supports.

Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION

Babu G. Ranganathan*
(B.A. Bible/Biology)


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
September 19, 2013 1:21 AM
Yes, when we saw a photo taken by an astronaut depicting a small pale dot in the dark vast, we realized that we actually belong to the cosmos and got to be able to reflect on and see ourselves more objectively.


by: Robbie Sagittarius from: Oregon, USA
September 19, 2013 12:38 AM
So what's on side two of the LP?

In Response

by: Flávio Siqueira from: Recife-Brasil
September 24, 2013 2:12 PM
The Aliens will record something on the side "b" and then send the it back to us.


by: PhillyJimi from: Philly
September 19, 2013 12:25 AM
This might of been a big mistake. Did we send out instructions on where to find us, come take over our planet and eat us!

In Response

by: Flávio Siqueira from: Recife-Brasil
September 24, 2013 2:13 PM
I remember a movie that describes this situation.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid