voyager interstellar message

In the annals of exploration, the achievements of the two Voyager spacecraft are unprecedented. The piddling journeys of Columbus and Magellan spanned a few tens of thousands of miles on the watery surface of one small world. Voyagers 1 and 2 have traveled billions of miles through the ocean of space, exploring dozens of new worlds along the way and revolutionizing our knowledge of the solar system in which we live. And as a gift of the brilliant mission design, these robot ships are no longer bound by the Sun's gravity. They have passed the outermost planets and are on their way to the cold, dark near-vacuum that constitutes interstellar space. Nothing can stop them. Their radio transmitters are unlikely to work beyond the year 2020. Thereafter, they will wander silently and forever in the realm of the stars.

Who knows who's out there? Perhaps the rest of the Milky Way Galaxy is populated by desolate, wasteland worlds circling a hundred billion stars. Or maybe the Galaxy is rich in life forms and intelligence and technology much further beyond our reach than the Voyagers are beyond the reach of Columbus and Magellan. Someday - maybe millions of years in the future - one of these ghostly, derelict ships may be detected and captured by the representatives of some devastatingly advanced interstellar culture. They will wonder about the shipbuilders.

If you could send a long message to such extraterrestrial beings - words, pictures, sounds, music - what would you say? How would you describe us? What would you leave out? Could you communicate intelligibly to very different beings with a wholly independent evolution? In 1977, at NASA's behest, a few of us had a remarkable opportunity to attempt such a (one-way) communication. Frank Drake suggested not a plaque, but a phonograph record. As described in the book, Murmurs of Earth, we designed and prepared the record to carry a rich message to the stars - 116 pictures and diagrams about our global civilization and our species, greetings, samples of the world's great music, the brain waves of a young woman in love and much else.

The Voyager mission has already become the stuff of myth, the premise for many works of science fiction. Brief excerpts from the Voyager record have been heard in films, television and radio. But the record itself has never before been available to the public, because of corporate rivalries and copyright restrictions. Warner New Media has broken through the logjam. Those of us who created the interstellar record - well-aware that different people would have made different selections - are delighted to help bring this message to you, essentially complete, as carried by Voyager. This is what the extraterrestrials will learn about us, should the spacecraft - now the fastest and farthest machines ever launched by the human species - one day encounter someone else in the depths of space.

A billion years from now, when everything on Earth we've ever made has crumbled into dust, when the continents are changed beyond recognition and our species is unimaginably altered or extinct, the Voyager record will still speak for us.

- Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan

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