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Voyager Golden Record contains info about Earth.

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Voyager Golden Record is a phonograph record included in the two Voyager Spacecraft launched in 1977. Voyager Golden Record contains sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. Voyager Golden Record is intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or far future humans, that may find it. The Voyager spacecraft will take about 40,000 years to come near another star, 'near' meaning in this case within around 1.7 light-years' distance; hence, if other beings do not come in the direction of the spacecraft to meet them, it will take at least that long for the Golden Record to be found.

Voyager Golden Record.
The Voyager Golden Record.
Voyager Golden Record.
Cover of the Voyager Golden Record.

As the Voyager probes are extremely small compared to the vastness of interstellar space, it is extraordinarily unlikely that they will ever be intercepted. If they are ever found by an alien species, it will be far in the future and the aliens may not even have technology able to play the record or the biology to see or feel the images, and thus the record is best seen as a symbolic statement rather than a serious attempt to communicate with aliens.

Background to the Voyager Golden Record.

as of 2006, the Voyager spacecraft will be the eighteenth and seventeenth human artifacts to escape entirely from the solar system. Pioneers 10 and 11, which were launched in 1972 and 1973 and preceded Voyager in outstripping the gravitational attraction of the Sun, both carried small metal plaques identifying their time and place of origin for the benefit of any other spacefarers that might find them in the distant future.

With this example before them, NASA placed a more comprehensive (and eclectic) message aboard Voyager 1 and 2 - a kind of time capsule, intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials.

This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours. ? U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Recording cover diagram of the Voyager Golden Record.

Voyager record cover diagram.
Explanation of the Voyager record cover diagram, as provided by NASA.

Contents of the Voyager Golden Record.

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, and animal sounds, including the songs of birds and whales. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earthlings in fifty-five languages, and printed messages from President Jimmy Carter and U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim.

After NASA had received much criticism over the "smut" on the Pioneer plaque (line drawings of a naked man and woman), the agency chose not to allow Sagan and his colleagues to include a photograph of a nude man and a nude, pregnant woman on the record. Instead, only a silhouette of the couple was included.

Here is an excerpt of President Carter's official statement placed on the Voyager spacecraft for its trip outside our solar system, June 16, 1977:

We cast this message into the cosmos… Of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, some - perhaps many - may have inhabited planets and space faring civilizations. If one such civilization intercepts Voyager and can understand these recorded contents, here is our message: We are trying to survive our time so we may live into yours. We hope some day, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of Galactic Civilizations. This record represents our hope and our determination and our goodwill in a vast and awesome universe.

The 115 images are encoded in analog form. The remainder of the record is audio, designed to be played at 16? revolutions per minute. It contains spoken greetings beginning with Akkadian, which was spoken in Sumer about six thousand years ago, and ending with Wu, a modern Chinese dialect.

Following are the 55 languages included in the Voyager Golden Record:

  • Akkadian.
  • Amoy (dialect of Min Nan).
  • Arabic.
  • Aramaic.
  • Armenian.
  • Bengali.
  • Burmese.
  • Cantonese.
  • Czech.
  • Dutch.
  • English.
  • French.
  • German.
  • Ancient Greek.
  • Gujarati.
  • Hebrew.
  • Hindi.
  • Hittite.
  • Hungarian.
  • Ila (Zambia).
  • Indonesian.
  • Italian.
  • Japanese.
  • Kannada.
  • Korean.
  • Latin.
  • Luganda.
  • Mandarin Chinese.
  • Marathi.
  • Nepali.
  • Nguni.
  • Nyanja.
  • Oriya.
  • Persian.
  • Polish.
  • Portuguese.
  • Punjabi.
  • Quechua.
  • Rajasthani.
  • Romanian.
  • Russian.
  • Serbian.
  • Sinhalese.
  • Sotho.
  • Spanish.
  • Sumerian.
  • Swedish.
  • Telugu.
  • Thai.
  • Turkish.
  • Ukrainian.
  • Urdu.
  • Vietnamese.
  • Welsh.
  • Wu.

Following the section on the sounds of Earth, there is an eclectic 90-minute selection of music from many cultures, including Eastern and Western classics. The selections include:

Country Song Author Performer(s) Recorded or collected by Type of music Length
Germany Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F. First Movement Bach Munich Bach Orchestra conducted by Karl Richter Chamber orchestra 4:40
Indonesia "Puspawarna" ("Kinds of Flowers") Court gamelan of Pura Paku Alaman directed by K.R.T. Wasitodipuro Robert E. Brown Gamelan 4:43
Senegal Senegalese percussion Charles Duvelle Percussion 2:08
Zaire Pygmy girls' initiation song Colin Turnbull 0:56
Australia "Morning Star" and "Devil Bird" Sandra LeBrun Holmes Aborigine songs 1:26
Mexico "El Cascabel" Lorenzo Barcelata and the Mariachi México 3:14
USA "Johnny B. Goode" Chuck Berry Chuck Berry Rock and roll 2:03
New Guinea Men's house song Robert MacLennan 1:20
Japan "Tsuru No Sugomori" ("Crane's Nest") Goro Yamaguchi Shakuhachi 4:51
Germany/Belgium "Gavotte en rondeaux" from the Partita No. 3 in E major for Violin Bach Arthur Grumiaux violin 2:55
Austria/Germany Die Zauberflöte, Queen of the Night aria, no. 14 Mozart Edda Moser (soprano) from the Bavarian State Opera, conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch opera 2:55
Georgia S.S.R. "Tchakrulo" Radio Moscow Chorus 2:18
Peru Casa de la Cultura, Lima Panpipes and drum 0:52
USA "Melancholy Blues" Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven Jazz 3:05
Azerbaijan S.S.R. "Ugam" Radio Moscow Bagpipes 2:30
Russia/France/USA Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance Stravinsky Columbia Symphony Orchestra conducted by Igor Stravinsky 4:35
Germany/Canada The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude and Fugue in C, No.1 Bach Glenn Gould piano 4:48
Germany/England Fifth Symphony, First Movement Beethoven Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Otto Klemperer 7:20
Bulgaria ("Izlel je Delyo Hajdutin") traditional Valya Balkanska Ethel Rain and Martin Koenig 4:59
USA Night Chant Navajo Indians Willard Rhodes 0:57
England "The Fairie Round" from Paueans, Galliards, Almains and Other Short Aeirs Anthony Holborne David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London 1:17
Solomon Islands Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service Panpipes 1:12
Peru Wedding song John Cohen 0:38
China "Liu Shui" ("Flowing Streams") Bo Ya Kuan P'ing-hu 7:37
India "Jaat Kahan Ho" Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar Raga Bhairavi 3:30
USA "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" Blind Willie Johnson Blind Willie Johnson Blues 3:15
Germany/Hungary String Quartet No. 13 in B flat, Opus 130 Beethoven Budapest String Quartet Cavatina 6:37

Journey of the Voyager craft.

Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, passed the orbit of Pluto in 1990, and left the Solar System (in the sense of passing the Termination Shock) in November 2004. It is now in empty space. In about 40,000 years, it and Voyager 2 will each come to within about 1.7 light-years of two separate stars: Voyager 1 will have approached star AC+79 3888, located in the constellation Ursa Minor; and Voyager 2 will have approached star Ross 248, located in the constellation of Andromeda.

In May 2005, Voyager 1 was 8.7 billion miles from the Sun and travelling at a speed of 3.6 AU per year (38,000 miles per hour) while Voyager 2 is about 6.5 billion miles away and moving at about 3.3 AU per year. One 'AU' or astronomical unit, equals the distance between the Sun and Earth which is 93 million miles.

Voyager 1 has entered the Heliosheath, the region beyond the termination shock. The termination shock is where the solar wind, a thin stream of electrically charged gas blowing continuously outward from the Sun, is slowed by pressure from gas between the stars. At the termination shock, the solar wind slows abruptly from its average speed of 300 to 700 km per second (700,000-1,500,000 miles per hour) and becomes denser and hotter.

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."

Other information about the Voyager Golden Record.

Most of the images used on the record (reproduced in black and white), together with information about its compilation, can be found in the 1978 book Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record by Carl Sagan, F.D. Drake, Ann Druyan, Timothy Ferris, Jon Lomberg, and Linda Salzman. A CD-ROM version was issued by Warner New Media in 1992. Both versions are out of print, but the 1978 edition can be found in many college or public libraries.

In July, 1983, BBC Radio 4 broadcast the 45-minute documentary Music from a Small Planet, in which Sagan and Druyan explained the process of selecting music for the record and introduced excerpts. It was not clear whether this was an original BBC documentary or an imported NPR production.

Included within the Sounds of Earth audio portion of the Golden Record is a track containing the inspirational message ad astra per aspera in Morse Code. Translated from Latin, it means, through hardships to the stars.

Sagan had originally asked for permission to include "Here Comes the Sun" from the Beatles' album Abbey Road. While the Beatles favored it, EMI opposed it and the song was not included.

Appearances in fiction of the Voyager Golden Record.

  • The motion picture Starman portrayed the Voyager Golden Record as having been located by an extra-terrestrial intelligence who subsequently sent one of their own race to investigate intelligent life on Earth (but they exchanged "Johnny B. Goode" with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones).
  • Voyager and its record appear in the episode entitled "Parasites Lost" of the animated television series Futurama. Leela scrapes the spacecraft off her ship's windshield while stopped at a galactic "truck stop".
Golden Disk.
Megatron's message on the Golden Disk.
  • In the Transformers series Beast Wars, the Golden Disk stolen by the Predacons was in fact the Voyager Record. This disk was prized by the Transformer race, as it alone told the location of Earth and thus a plentiful source of Energon. The disk also contained a secret message from the original Megatron. The record was destroyed by Dinobot to prevent the Predacon Megatron from having the ability to change the future. However, Megatron recovered a piece of the disk, so that the Decepticon-turned-Predacon Ravage would join his side after watching the message left by his former commander.
  • In a memorable Saturday Night Live segment, it was announced by Steve Martin that the first message from extraterrestrials was being received. Once decoded, the message stated, "Send more Chuck Berry.".
  • While parts of the record cover appear in Star Trek: The Motion Picture as part of V'ger, the record itself was apparently not placed on the fictional Voyager 6 probe.
  • In the X-Files episode "Little Green Men", a brief excerpt of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #2 from the Voyager Golden Record recording can be heard.
  • In the anime Eureka Seven episode 31, a reprint of the record was shown by Dr. Greg Egan in his laboratory.
  • In an episode of The West Wing, "The Warfare of Genghis Khan", Josh Lyman mentions the Golden Record (though not by name) through a reference to Blind Willie Johnson.
  • In an episode of Pinky and the Brain, Brain changes the design of the Golden Disk so that it shows his and Pinky's body as that of the leaders of earth. When aliens intercept the disk, they capture Pinky and Brain as pets, thinking them to be the leaders of Earth.

Why not also search for...

  • time capsule.
  • Arecibo message, sent from the Arecibo radiotelescope to inform extraterrestrials about Earth.
  • Pioneer plaque - forerunner to the Voyager record; article gives a fuller treatment to interpretation of the plaque's message.
  • Messages in bottles have been cast into the ocean for centuries.

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