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

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    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.
    Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora