The Voyager spacecraft has recently left the orbital limits of our solar system. It is now the furthest any made-made object has travelled from Earth.
If you’re not old enough to remember the launch, Voyager left carrying a golden record containing a sample of sounds and images from Earth. So should any extraterrestrial life encounter Voyager in deep space, those beings should be able to listen and view the sounds of our civilisation.
If you go to the Golden Record web-site http://goldenrecord.org/, you can see exactly what NASA placed on the golden record, “a kind of time capsule, intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials.”
The Voyager message is carried by a phonograph record-a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.
According to the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, “the contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University. Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind and thunder, birds, whales, and other animals. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages, printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim. Each record is encased in a protective aluminum jacket, together with a cartridge and a needle. “
You can see the contents of the disk in the four categories, which also encompass our scientific understanding from maths, physics, chemistry and biology – including our DNA and reproductive systems.
› Scenes from Earth
› Greetings from Earth
› Music from Earth
› Sounds from Earth
“Instructions, in symbolic language, explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played. The 115 images are encoded in analogue form. The remainder of the record is in audio, designed to be played at 16-2/3 revolutions per minute. It contains the spoken greetings, beginning with Akkadian, which was spoken in Sumer about six thousand years ago, and ending with Wu, a modern Chinese dialect.
Following the section on the sounds of Earth, there is an eclectic 90-minute selection of music, including both Eastern and Western classics and a variety of ethnic music.
It will be forty thousand years before they make a close approach to any other planetary system. As Carl Sagan has noted, “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”
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