Quick quiz for anyone under age 25: What is Voyager 1?
If you’re a super geek and/or well informed about world affairs then you already know what Voyager is (good for you). But if you’re of average intelligence and trust Facebook to inform you of world affairs like me, then I’ll clue you in: it’s a spacecraft that was launched in 1977 to study the region in space where the Sun ends and interstellar space begins. This past December, you probably heard that Voyager 1 is just now approaching the edge of our solar system. (This news even managed to reach me inside my Facebook bubble). But all of this new “edge of the universe” stuff was pushed to the back of my mind when I read this one fact about the Voyager 1 mission:
Back in the 70’s when scientists were launching Voyager, they took great care to create a gold plated record containing what they thought would be useful in introducing planet earth to aliens.
Here is the exact quote from the official NASA website: “We placed an ambitious message aboard Voyager 1 – a kind of time capsule intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials. The Voyager message is carried by a phonograph record able to play a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.”
So of course the question that follows is: who got to choose the earth info for the aliens? Why didn’t American citizens get to vote on that? Why do we have to vote on boring stuff like the next president? According to NASA’s website, the contents of the golden record were selected by a committee chaired by the late Carl Sagan of Cornell University.
Carl was quoted as saying, “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”In case you’re just as fascinated as I was, here’s what they added to the “bottle in the cosmic ocean”:
1) 115 images and a variety of natural sounds compiled into a medley called “The Sounds of Earth”. It reportedly includes sounds such as those made by surf, wind, thunder, birds, whales, and other animals. (How did Carl and his team define “natural”? What about farts? Were those on there? Because those are natural, universal, and possibly unheard of on other planets. And what about sex sounds? As a U.S. citizen, I demand to know what those 115 images and sounds were).
2) They also added musical selections from different cultures and eras. According to NASA, “there is an eclectic 90-minute selection of music titled “Earth Music” which includes both Eastern and Western classics and a variety of ethnic music.”
The only information I could find said that the medley includes works by Mozart and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode“, among others. Really? I can understand Mozart, but Chuck Berry? If we had to have Chuck Berry on there, at least Carl could’ve chosen “Roll over Beethoven” to cleverly contrast with Mozart’s genius of the 1700s.
People, we need to remedy this situation. We need to build a device that can quickly reach Voyager 1 and can add Nicki Minaj to the “Earth Music” portion of the Golden Record. That’s why I am now petitioning NASA on change.org’s website to try to persuade NASA to take action. Click HERE to sign my petition.
3) Anyway, the record also includes spoken greetings from Earth people in 55 languages and printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim. The spoken greetings begin with Akkadian, which was spoken in Sumer about six thousand years ago, and ends with Wu, a Chinese dialect. (One question: was Pig Latin also included?)
If you’re wondering how the aliens will know how to listen to the record, sit down. The scientists already thought of that. “Each record is encased in a protective aluminum jacket, together with a cartridge and a needle. Instructions in symbolic language explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played.” Phew. I thought all that work was for nothing.