The Golden Record

09 Oct 2017

Two-minute read

Voyager Golden Record

In 1977, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and into the mysteries of interstellar space. Attached to each of these probes is a beautiful golden record containing a message for any extraterrestrial intelligence that might encounter it, perhaps billions of years from now. This enchanting artifact,officially called the Voyager Interstellar Record, may be the last vestige of our civilization after we are gone forever. The Golden Record tells a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth’s greatest music from myriad peoples and eras, from Bach and Beethoven to Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, Benin percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. Natural sounds—birds, a train, a baby’s cry, a kiss—are collaged into a lovely audio poem called “Sounds of Earth.” There are spoken greetings in dozens of human languages—and one whale language—and more than 100 images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are.

Earth 1977 seems a world removed from today. Forty years on and our planet is dramatically different. Can we imagine a Voyager Space Shuttle today, one sent expressly for communicating with extraterrestrial intelligence? Perhaps at this time our society is too jaded and the golden record speaks to its own time rather than any hope of a realistic interplanetary communication. Instead of the lofty beautiful ambitions of 1977, we live in a time of smaller successes and larger challenges. We can’t tell what life will be like next year, much less billions of years ahead. With this in mind, we propose a new, modest Voyage Interstellar Recording. More like a Voyage Interstellar Voicemail or audio memo, which already sounds dated, this Voyage Interstellar Recording has more humble desires to communicate here, now to the near and far. What does this new Voyage Interstellar Recording look like, sound like? What images will be included?

The Voyage Interstellar Recording is open to your dispatches. Field recordings, voicemails, digital assistants and telemarketing calls form the new works of an extended “Sounds of the Earth.” Like the original encoded disk, images depicting ‘who, and what, we are’ shall be included as well. Our goal is not to create something for alien intelligences billions of years away from now, though we are open to that possibility. We invite those interested to submit their recordings and images. These will not be inscribed in gold, placed in a satellite and flown into space. We think it’s unlikely we’ll have listeners and viewers that way. We wil simply make a circa 2017 Bandcamp page and distribute the URL for as long as that website stays in existence.

[it] is also a gift to humanity. The record embodies a sense of possibility and hope. And it’s as relevant now as it was in 1977. Perhaps even more so.

The Voyager Interstellar Record is a reminder of what we can achieve when we are at our best—and that our future really is up to all of us.