“To declare that Earth must be the only planet with life in the universe would be inexcusably bigheaded of us”*…
If any intelligent life in our galaxy intercepts the Voyager spacecraft, if they evolved the sense of vision, and if they can decode the instructions provided, these 116 images are all they will know about our species and our planet, which by then could be long gone…
When Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 launched into space in 1977, their mission was to explore the outer solar system, and over the following decade, they did so admirably.
With an 8-track tape memory system and onboard computers that are thousands of times weaker than the phone in your pocket, the two spacecraft sent back an immense amount of imagery and information about the four gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
But NASA knew that after the planetary tour was complete, the Voyagers would remain on a trajectory toward interstellar space, having gained enough velocity from Jupiter’s gravity to eventually escape the grasp of the sun. Since they will orbit the Milky Way for the foreseeable future, the Voyagers should carry a message from their maker, NASA scientists decided.
The Voyager team tapped famous astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan to compose that message. Sagan’s committee chose a copper phonograph LP as their medium, and over the course of six weeks they produced the “Golden Record”: a collection of sounds and images that will probably outlast all human artifacts on Earth…
More (including an interactive decoding of the symbols on the disc) at “The 116 photos NASA picked to explain our world to aliens.”
And for an update on NASA”s attempts at interstellar communication, check here.
* Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Death By Black Hole
As we contemplate co-habitation of the universe, we might send out-of-this-world birthday greetings to Alan B. Shepard; he was born on this date in 1923. A naval aviator and test pilot, he was selected in the first class of American astronauts, the “Mercury Seven”; in 1961, he piloted the first American manned mission, “Freedom 7,” becoming the first American (and second man, after Yuri Gagarin) into space. Ten years later, he was part of the Apollo 14 crew, piloting the lunar module for Nasa’s third successful moon landing.