• SumoMe

In 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1 and 2 which sent them both out into the cosmos in an effort to explore Jupiter and Saturn. Once they reached their destination, NASA kept them on course and wondered how far they could go. Currently, 35 years after their launch, they are both in the “heliosheath” layer, which is the outermost layer of the heliosphere where the solar wind is slowed by the pressure of interstellar gas. These two probes are further away from Earth and the Sun than Pluto is, making them the most distant Earth-launched objects ever.

But the probes are known for something else, something that shines a light into the hopes and dreams of the designing scientists at the time. On board the Voyager probes is a gold-plated record and a stylus with which to play it. This record contains greetings in 55 different languages, some images, as well as a wide array of songs, including “Dark was the Night” by Blind Willie Johnson, the Navajo Indian’s Night Chant, Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 13 in B flat, and Louis Armstrong’s “Melancholy Blues,” among many others.

This Golden Record always inspires me to think–if I were to represent Earth and send a time capsule of sorts out into the cosmos, what information would it contain? The images on the record include (among other things) photos of houses, diagrams of DNA, an anthology of human anatomy, photos of our solar system, and examples of human technology. The goal was likely to include the entire spectrum of human existence both to give an accurate representation of Earth life, as well as to hopefully appeal to something out there (maybe they’re fans of the blues).

The Voyager probes are still moving onward, and even though the mission is 35 years old, the probes are still very far away from the closest star to our sun, which is 4.2 light-years away. Realistically, I doubt nothing will find the probes–at least not in my lifetime. However, the act of sending them out there to begin with is meaningful because it shows that in 1977 some very smart people considered the possibility of other life out there, and put together a compilation of the best our planet has to offer and released it into the unknown.

Exploring the contents of the record on board Voyager 1 and 2 is a very interesting experience, and I encourage you to follow the links in this article to learn more about it.

If you were tasked with making the record in 2012, what would you add that wasn’t on the original? Share your thoughts in the comments below.