Somewhere in interstellar space, beyond our own solar system, two spacecraft launched in 1977 are continuing their mission to explore the unknown. Named Voyager 1 and 2, they are now the farthest man-made objects from our planet. Beyond their scientific purpose, the Voyager spacecrafts are also our first-ever ambassadors of humanity in space — twin probes each mounted with a golden phonographic record containing images and sounds of culture and life on planet Earth.
"Each record is encased in a protective aluminum jacket, together with a cartridge and a needle," NASA explains, estimating that the records themselves could survive for at least a billion years. "Instructions, in symbolic language, explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played. The 115 images are encoded in analog form. The remainder of the record is in audio, designed to be played at 16-2/3 revolutions per minute."
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So what exactly would aliens experience if they followed the instructions? In terms of audio, they would first receive human greetings in 55 different languages, followed by sounds of birds, volcanoes, buses, and even a kiss between a mother and child. Next would come the world's first intergalactic mixtape, featuring 90 minutes of music including bluegrass, rock, instrumental and Australian aboriginal songs.
Earlier this year, NASA uploaded the full audio contents of the golden record, including a speech by then-President Jimmy Carter, to SoundCloud for everyone to peruse.
As for the images, the 115 included by NASA feature everything from maps with directions on how to reach Earth to snapshots of people eating, drinking and licking. There are also approximations of human heights at various ages, pictures of our atmosphere explaining its chemical composition, and anything else aliens would need to determine whether we're friends, foes or suitable targets for a future invasion.
Interestingly, the golden record committee, led by astronomer Carl Sagan, chose not to include images of war, poverty, disease, crime, ideology or religion. I guess some things should be surprises.
You can see all of the photos on Imgur — or check out Vox's video presentation of the images below.