In the 1980s, NASA sent two probes to explore the solar system: Voyager 1 & 2. Since the probes would leave the solar system one day and become the first man-made machines to enter interstellar space, it was decided that if aliens found them one day, it would be nice to send them a greeting. So a gold record was attached onto each of the probes with this greeting from mankind. But NASA wanted to make sure that if the aliens found them one day, they shouldn’t think the records were only a strangely scratched golden mirror. So they added a pickup, a needle and the assembly instructions for a record player.
I have always been a huge fan of the “Golden Records”. One of my favorite tracks is the “Greetings From The Secretary General Of The UN”, who explains: “We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship, to teach if we are called upon, to be taught if we are fortunate… it is with humility and hope that we take this step.” And since the General Secretary was Dr. Kurt Waldheim at the time, this speech now drifts through the universe in his broad, heavy Austrian English forever. At least until it is found and, given the fact that the aliens assemble the turntable correctly, one day it sounds again in the cockpit of a futuristic spaceship. I’d love to be there in this very moment, with a big smile on my face…
Currently, the Voyagers are hissing somewhere in the middle of nowhere behind Pluto and there are regular disputes about whether they have already left the solar system or not. To bridge the time until their discovery, NASA now has released parts of the record on “Soundcloud” this year. You can find out more about this in my little article, that I was could write on this occasion in the wonderful newspaper “Der Freitag”:
… and far from home untouched by these remote events, the Voyagers bearing the memories of a world that is no more –
will fly on.
Image of the Voyager Golden Record. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
For connoisseurs: a wonderful lecture by Carl Sagan himself on the Golden Record