Voyager Golden Record
The Voyager Golden Record
is an analogue disc record
containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, attached to the two Voyager spacecraft
The Voyager spacecraft will be the third and fourth human artifacts to escape entirely from the solar system. Pioneerss 10 and 11, which preceded Voyager in outstripping the gravitational attraction of the Sun, both carried small metal plaques identifying their time and place of origin for the benefit of any other spacefarers that might find them in the distant future.
With this example before them, NASA placed a more comprehensive (and eclectic) message aboard Voyager 1 and 2 – a kind of time capsule, intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials.
This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours. — President Jimmy Carter.
The Voyager message is carried by the Voyager Golden Record; a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. 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.
Reverse of the Voyager Golden Record.
Cover of the Voyager Golden Record.
The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University. Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind and thunder, birds, whales, and other animals. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages, and printed messages from President Carter and U.N Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim.
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. It contains the spoken greetings, beginning with Akkadian, which was spoken in Sumer about six thousand years ago, and ending with Wu, a modern Chinese dialect.
Following the section on the sounds of Earth, there is an eclectic 90-minute selection of music, including both Eastern and Western classics and a variety of ethnic music. The selections include:
left the solar system in November 2003
, after passing the orbit of Pluto
. It is now in empty space, with forty thousand years expected to elapse before it or Voyager 2
makes a close approach to any other solar system
As Carl Sagan has noted, "The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this "bottle" into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet."
Most of the images used on the record (reproduced in black and white), together with information about its compilation, can be found in the book Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar record by Carl Sagan, F.D. Drake, Ann Druyan, Timothy Ferris, Jon Lomberg and Linda Salzman (1978), ISBN 0394410475 (hardcover); ISBN 0345283961 (paperback).
In July, 1983, BBC Radio 4 broadcast the 45-minute documentary Music from a Small Planet, in which Sagan and Druyan explained the process of selecting music for the record and introduced excerpts. It was not clear whether this was an original BBC documentary or an imported NPR production.
Recording Cover Diagram
Explanation of the Voyager record cover diagram, as provided by NASA.
Originally based on public domain text from the NASA Website, where selected images and sounds from the record can be found. Much of the Voyager records, however, is only available in compiled form to extraterrestrials for copyright reasons.