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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More