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The Golden Record
The definitive work about the Voyager record is Murmurs of Earth by Sagan, Drake, Lomberg, et.al. Originally published in 1978, it was reissued in 1992 by Warner News Media and includes a CD-ROM that replicates the Voyager record. Unfortunately, this book is now out of print.
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How the Voyager Golden Record Was Made
By Timothy Ferris
We inhabit a small planet orbiting a medium-sized star about two-thirds of the way out from the center of the Milky Way galaxy—around where Track 2 on an LP record might begin. In cosmic terms, we are tiny: were the galaxy the size of a typical LP, the sun and all its planets would fit inside an atom’s width. Yet there is something in us so expansive that, four decades ago, we made a time capsule full of music and photographs from Earth and flung it out into the universe. Indeed, we made two of them.
The time capsules, really a pair of phonograph records, were launched aboard the twin Voyager space probes in August and September of 1977. The craft spent thirteen years reconnoitering the sun’s outer planets, beaming back valuable data and images of incomparable beauty . In 2012, Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to leave the solar system, sailing through the doldrums where the stream of charged particles from our sun stalls against those of interstellar space. Today, the probes are so distant that their radio signals, travelling at the speed of light, take more than fifteen hours to reach Earth. They arrive with a strength of under a millionth of a billionth of a watt, so weak that the three dish antennas of the Deep Space Network’s interplanetary tracking system (in California, Spain, and Australia) had to be enlarged to stay in touch with them.
If you perched on Voyager 1 now—which would be possible, if uncomfortable; the spidery craft is about the size and mass of a subcompact car—you’d have no sense of motion. The brightest star in sight would be our sun, a glowing point of light below Orion’s foot, with Earth a dim blue dot lost in its glare. Remain patiently onboard for millions of years, and you’d notice that the positions of a few relatively nearby stars were slowly changing, but that would be about it. You’d find, in short, that you were not so much flying to the stars as swimming among them.
The Voyagers’ scientific mission will end when their plutonium-238 thermoelectric power generators fail, around the year 2030. After that, the two craft will drift endlessly among the stars of our galaxy—unless someone or something encounters them someday. With this prospect in mind, each was fitted with a copy of what has come to be called the Golden Record. Etched in copper, plated with gold, and sealed in aluminum cases, the records are expected to remain intelligible for more than a billion years, making them the longest-lasting objects ever crafted by human hands. We don’t know enough about extraterrestrial life, if it even exists, to state with any confidence whether the records will ever be found. They were a gift, proffered without hope of return.
I became friends with Carl Sagan, the astronomer who oversaw the creation of the Golden Record, in 1972. He’d sometimes stop by my place in New York, a high-ceilinged West Side apartment perched up amid Norway maples like a tree house, and we’d listen to records. Lots of great music was being released in those days, and there was something fascinating about LP technology itself. A diamond danced along the undulations of a groove, vibrating an attached crystal, which generated a flow of electricity that was amplified and sent to the speakers. At no point in this process was it possible to say with assurance just how much information the record contained or how accurately a given stereo had translated it. The open-endedness of the medium seemed akin to the process of scientific exploration: there was always more to learn.
In the winter of 1976, Carl was visiting with me and my fiancée at the time, Ann Druyan, and asked whether we’d help him create a plaque or something of the sort for Voyager. We immediately agreed. Soon, he and one of his colleagues at Cornell, Frank Drake, had decided on a record. By the time NASA approved the idea, we had less than six months to put it together, so we had to move fast. Ann began gathering material for a sonic description of Earth’s history. Linda Salzman Sagan, Carl’s wife at the time, went to work recording samples of human voices speaking in many different languages. The space artist Jon Lomberg rounded up photographs, a method having been found to encode them into the record’s grooves. I produced the record, which meant overseeing the technical side of things. We all worked on selecting the music.
I sought to recruit John Lennon, of the Beatles, for the project, but tax considerations obliged him to leave the country. Lennon did help us, though, in two ways. First, he recommended that we use his engineer, Jimmy Iovine, who brought energy and expertise to the studio. (Jimmy later became famous as a rock and hip-hop producer and record-company executive.) Second, Lennon’s trick of etching little messages into the blank spaces between the takeout grooves at the ends of his records inspired me to do the same on Voyager. I wrote a dedication: “To the makers of music—all worlds, all times.”
To our surprise, those nine words created a problem at NASA . An agency compliance officer, charged with making sure each of the probes’ sixty-five thousand parts were up to spec, reported that while everything else checked out—the records’ size, weight, composition, and magnetic properties—there was nothing in the blueprints about an inscription. The records were rejected, and NASA prepared to substitute blank discs in their place. Only after Carl appealed to the NASA administrator, arguing that the inscription would be the sole example of human handwriting aboard, did we get a waiver permitting the records to fly.
In those days, we had to obtain physical copies of every recording we hoped to listen to or include. This wasn’t such a challenge for, say, mainstream American music, but we aimed to cast a wide net, incorporating selections from places as disparate as Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, China, Congo, Japan, the Navajo Nation, Peru, and the Solomon Islands. Ann found an LP containing the Indian raga “Jaat Kahan Ho” in a carton under a card table in the back of an appliance store. At one point, the folklorist Alan Lomax pulled a Russian recording, said to be the sole copy of “Chakrulo” in North America, from a stack of lacquer demos and sailed it across the room to me like a Frisbee. We’d comb through all this music individually, then meet and go over our nominees in long discussions stretching into the night. It was exhausting, involving, utterly delightful work.
“Bhairavi: Jaat Kahan Ho,” by Kesarbai Kerkar
In selecting Western classical music, we sacrificed a measure of diversity to include three compositions by J. S. Bach and two by Ludwig van Beethoven. To understand why we did this, imagine that the record were being studied by extraterrestrials who lacked what we would call hearing, or whose hearing operated in a different frequency range than ours, or who hadn’t any musical tradition at all. Even they could learn from the music by applying mathematics, which really does seem to be the universal language that music is sometimes said to be. They’d look for symmetries—repetitions, inversions, mirror images, and other self-similarities—within or between compositions. We sought to facilitate the process by proffering Bach, whose works are full of symmetry, and Beethoven, who championed Bach’s music and borrowed from it.
I’m often asked whether we quarrelled over the selections. We didn’t, really; it was all quite civil. With a world full of music to choose from, there was little reason to protest if one wonderful track was replaced by another wonderful track. I recall championing Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night,” which, if memory serves, everyone liked from the outset. Ann stumped for Chuck Berry’s “ Johnny B. Goode ,” a somewhat harder sell, in that Carl, at first listening, called it “awful.” But Carl soon came around on that one, going so far as to politely remind Lomax, who derided Berry’s music as “adolescent,” that Earth is home to many adolescents. Rumors to the contrary, we did not strive to include the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” only to be disappointed when we couldn’t clear the rights. It’s not the Beatles’ strongest work, and the witticism of the title, if charming in the short run, seemed unlikely to remain funny for a billion years.
“Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground,” by Blind Willie Johnson
Ann’s sequence of natural sounds was organized chronologically, as an audio history of our planet, and compressed logarithmically so that the human story wouldn’t be limited to a little beep at the end. We mixed it on a thirty-two-track analog tape recorder the size of a steamer trunk, a process so involved that Jimmy jokingly accused me of being “one of those guys who has to use every piece of equipment in the studio.” With computerized boards still in the offing, the sequence’s dozens of tracks had to be mixed manually. Four of us huddled over the board like battlefield surgeons, struggling to keep our arms from getting tangled as we rode the faders by hand and got it done on the fly.
The sequence begins with an audio realization of the “music of the spheres,” in which the constantly changing orbital velocities of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter are translated into sound, using equations derived by the astronomer Johannes Kepler in the sixteenth century. We then hear the volcanoes, earthquakes, thunderstorms, and bubbling mud of the early Earth. Wind, rain, and surf announce the advent of oceans, followed by living creatures—crickets, frogs, birds, chimpanzees, wolves—and the footsteps, heartbeats, and laughter of early humans. Sounds of fire, speech, tools, and the calls of wild dogs mark important steps in our species’ advancement, and Morse code announces the dawn of modern communications. (The message being transmitted is Ad astra per aspera , “To the stars through hard work.”) A brief sequence on modes of transportation runs from ships to jet airplanes to the launch of a Saturn V rocket. The final sounds begin with a kiss, then a mother and child, then an EEG recording of (Ann’s) brainwaves, and, finally, a pulsar—a rapidly spinning neutron star giving off radio noise—in a tip of the hat to the pulsar map etched into the records’ protective cases.
“The Sounds of Earth”
Ann had obtained beautiful recordings of whale songs, made with trailing hydrophones by the biologist Roger Payne, which didn’t fit into our rather anthropocentric sounds sequence. We also had a collection of loquacious greetings from United Nations representatives, edited down and cross-faded to make them more listenable. Rather than pass up the whales, I mixed them in with the diplomats. I’ll leave it to the extraterrestrials to decide which species they prefer.
“United Nations Greetings/Whale Songs”
Those of us who were involved in making the Golden Record assumed that it would soon be commercially released, but that didn’t happen. Carl repeatedly tried to get labels interested in the project, only to run afoul of what he termed, in a letter to me dated September 6, 1990, “internecine warfare in the record industry.” As a result, nobody heard the thing properly for nearly four decades. (Much of what was heard, on Internet snippets and in a short-lived commercial CD release made in 1992 without my participation, came from a set of analog tape dubs that I’d distributed to our team as keepsakes.) Then, in 2016, a former student of mine, David Pescovitz, and one of his colleagues, Tim Daly, approached me about putting together a reissue. They secured funding on Kickstarter , raising more than a million dollars in less than a month, and by that December we were back in the studio, ready to press play on the master tape for the first time since 1977.
Pescovitz and Daly took the trouble to contact artists who were represented on the record and send them what amounted to letters of authenticity—something we never had time to accomplish with the original project. (We disbanded soon after I delivered the metal master to Los Angeles, making ours a proud example of a federal project that evaporated once its mission was accomplished.) They also identified and corrected errors and omissions in the information that was provided to us by recordists and record companies. Track 3, for instance, which was listed by Lomax as “Senegal Percussion,” turns out instead to have been recorded in Benin and titled “Cengunmé”; and Track 24, the Navajo night chant, now carries the performers’ names. Forty years after launch, the Golden Record is finally being made available here on Earth. Were Carl alive today—he died in 1996 at the age of sixty-two—I think he’d be delighted.
This essay was adapted from the liner notes for the new edition of the Voyager Golden Record, recently released as a vinyl boxed set by Ozma Records .
By Anthony Lydgate
By Jeannie Suk Gersen
By Kelefa Sanneh
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Chuck Berry Immortalized On Voyager Space Mission
In 1977, a recording of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" was included on a golden disc sent to space with the Voyager mission. The mission continues today.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Chuck Berry, who's often thought of as the father of rock and roll, passed from this world on Saturday at 90 years old, but thanks to NASA, his music lives on in space. Let's explain. In 1977, NASA launched two spacecraft - Voyager 1 and 2 - to explore Jupiter, Saturn and beyond. Each carried a 12-inch gold plated record that contained music, sounds and images picked to represent the great diversity of life on Earth. The idea was maybe one day extraterrestrial life far away would stumble on the records and learn something from us.
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Astronomer Carl Sagan oversaw the collection, which included greetings in 55 languages, the sound of a mother kissing a child, Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" and Chuck Berry's hit from 1958, "Johnny B. Goode."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JOHNNY B. GOODE")
CHUCK BERRY: (Singing) Oh, the engineers would see him sitting in the shade, strumming with the rhythm that the drivers made. The people passing by - they would stop say, oh, my, but that little country boy could play. Go, go. Go, Johnny. Go, go.
CORNISH: Timothy Ferris produced the album, and he remembers Sagan weighing in on the inclusion of the song.
TIMOTHY FERRIS: One member of the music selection committee sniffed that Chuck Berry's music was adolescent, but Carl Sagan reminded him that there are a lot of adolescents on Earth, too.
MCEVERS: Chuck Berry's remembered as a great performer, but Ferris points out he was also a terrific songwriter. And that's part of why his work was chosen for the golden record.
FERRIS: Not that we would expect the lyrics to make a great deal of difference to an alien civilization a billion years from now, but it's just a wonderful piece of narrative songwriting about how talent and hard work can change your life.
MCEVERS: Cultural critic Chuck Klosterman wrote about the selection of "Johnny B. Goode" in a book about how we will remember the present when it becomes the past.
CHUCK KLOSTERMAN: If rock music eventually becomes sort of this lost, dead art form that doesn't really have any role in the world at large and that people in 300 or 400 or 500 years are looking back and saying - who basically defined what this was? - Chuck Berry probably is the best candidate.
BERRY: (Singing) Go, go. Go, Johnny. Go, go.
CORNISH: As for the Voyager mission, the spacecraft are now more than 10 billion miles from Earth, beyond the reaches of our solar system. They're still sending back data. As far as anyone knows, the records are still intact, but no alien life has found them yet.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.
Dear Voyagers: How your billion-year journey carries true love
Ann Druyan, creative director on the Voyager golden discs, reflects on the two spacecraft’s epic journeys—and on Carl Sagan, the love of her life.
This cover was designed to protect the Voyager 1 and 2 Sounds of Earth gold-plated records from micrometeorite bombardment, but it also provides any future finders of the spacecraft a key to playing its contents. The records within contain greetings in 60 languages, samples of music from different cultures and eras, natural and artificial sounds from Earth, and electronic information that can be converted into diagrams and images.
You, the farthest objects we have ever touched, now venture beyond that place where the sun’s wind gives way to roaring interstellar gales; far, far away—and yet I feel close to you. My own life attained lift-off when you did. I was 27 years old when you were in the last stages of your assembly. Carl Sagan and I had known each other as friends and colleagues for a couple of years. We fell in love in 1977 while collaborating on the message that you carry. At the same moment that you left Earth to discover and explore other worlds and to blaze our trail to the stars, we were launched on our own life trajectory. You have been on my mind ever since.
The golden discs affixed to both of you are rich in information, including our return address. The scientific hieroglyphic on them that resembles a burst of fireworks is actually a map of the frequencies of the thirteen nearest pulsars. We think that these rapidly rotating neutron stars—virtually inexhaustible natural beacons, each identifiable by their unique rate of spin—will point the way to our sun and its system of worlds.
Countless times I have tried to imagine that I am flying along with you at 38,000 miles an hour past gas giants and ice worlds, as you leave the shallows of the cosmic ocean, bullet-like, even under the punishing assault of cosmic rays.
Launched in August and September 1977, NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft have opened up new worlds for exploration, including Jupiter (shown here), Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
I have fantasized your discovery by an extraterrestrial civilization. They reel in one of you derelict spacecraft, assessing your Model-T technology, and pore over the symbols on your golden disc, as Champollion and Young once did in their efforts to decipher the texts of ancient Egypt. But your deeper message is hidden beneath. Someone figures this out and pries off the cover to find 27 pieces of music from the world’s cultures, 118 images of life here, greetings in the languages of humans and others, and an audio essay about life on Earth.
The crackle of thunder awaits them. A mother’s first words to her newborn. A cricket’s song. An hour of meditation by a young woman newly fallen in true love.
I was that woman.
Fast Facts: Voyager 1 and 2
Voyager 1 Launch Date: September 5, 1977
Voyager 2 Launch Date: August 20, 1977
Launch Vehicle: Martin Marietta Titan IIIE
Launch Mass: 1,591.5 lbs (721.9 kg)
Power Source: 420-watt radioisotope thermal generator
Voyager 1 Enters Interstellar Space: August 25, 2012
Voyager 2 Enters Interstellar Space: November 5, 2018
Just days after Carl and I realized we would spend the rest of our lives together, I meditated for an hour while blindfolded, hooked up to every human monitoring device then known. The signals from my mind and heart—the most intimate message on the record—were translated into data and paired on the golden records with a strangely similar rasping, that of the most distant sound ever recorded back then: a pulsar.
Now, I am seventy. Yet the feelings of that long-ago spring afternoon remain fresh and astounding. It was the first day of June, and I was searching for the piece of music that would honor China’s 2,500-year-old continuous tradition. I did not know a single thing about Chinese music, so the search for its exemplar had been especially challenging. Once I felt sure I had found it, I left a message for Carl at his hotel in Tucson. We had never kissed or even joked about our feelings for each other, but when he returned my call, in the course of an exchange of about a dozen words, we had decided to marry.
And marry we did—in every way possible. Our families, our work, our hearts and minds and days and nights were blissful in their oneness, for the next two decades, until his death.
I and everyone I know will be dust for more than fifty thousand years before you near another star (unless some spacefarer should flag you down). But even if you are never claimed, you two have already taught us many things. Your dispatches from the outer solar system revealed new moons, geysers, volcanoes, sub-surface oceans, hurricanes of a ferocity that would fracture even our extended scale of categories, and even the very shape of our solar system as it moves through the Milky Way galaxy.
Under Carl’s leadership, you gave us another gift: that lesson in humility known as the “pale blue dot,” a portrait of our one-pixel world taken from out by Neptune. It is a way to grasp our true circumstances that can pierce even the fiercest form of denial. To see it is to know that we all live on a tiny dot. I wonder how long the petty chieftains and polluters can hold onto their delusions now that we’ve seen the picture you took and sent home to us, Voyager 1? From where you are now, Earth would be invisible.
For me you are more than machine. You are also an apt metaphor for Carl. In him, as in you, our science and humanity were united without conflict. Wonder and skepticism, imagination and rigor, ambition and inclusion, passion and reason, audacity and humility, precision and tenderness—none ever at the cost of the other—all combined to make him, what he was, and you, what you are.
Our collective human memory can barely reach back ten thousand years. Generations of scientists have been reconstructing the past of our species, our planet, and our universe. Thanks to them, we have an idea of what happened nearly 14 billion years ago. Your projected shelf life measures on that same enormous time scale. You are expected to complete four to twenty trips around the galaxy with our music, our images, our messages, intact. Since you have exceeded your mission specifications in every other way, I favor the optimistic view of a five-billion-year long shelf-life for your message. That’s likely longer than the future history of life on Earth. Your voices may still speak for us when our sun has become a red giant and all terrestrial remnants of our existence have been reduced to ash.
Even then, because of you, we can imagine that five thousand million years from now, our blues and our ragas, and a heart at its greatest fullness, will sing on.
Ad astra, my darlings.
My love and I are with you always,
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Voyager Golden Record: Through Struggle to the Stars
Voyager "Sounds Of Earth" Record Cover, 1977, National Air and Space Museum, Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
An intergalactic message in a bottle, the Voyager Golden Record was launched into space late in the summer of 1977. Conceived as a sort of advance promo disc advertising planet Earth and its inhabitants, it was affixed to Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, spacecraft designed to fly to the outer reaches of the solar system and beyond, providing data and documentation of Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. And just in case an alien lifeform stumbled upon either of the spacecraft, the Golden Record would provide them with information about Earth and its inhabitants, alongside media meant to encourage curiosity and contact.
Listen to the music recorded on the Voyager album with this Spotify playlist from user Ulysses' Classical.
Recorded at 16 ⅔ RPM to maximize play time, each gold-plaited, copper disc was engraved with the same program of 31 musical tracks—ranging from an excerpt of Mozart’s Magic Flute to a field recording made by Alan Lomax of Solomon Island panpipe players—spoken greetings in 55 languages, a sonic collage of recorded natural sounds and human-made sounds (“The Sounds of Earth”), 115 analogue-encoded images including a pulsar map to help in finding one’s way to Earth, a recording of the creative director’s brainwaves, and a Morse-code rendering of the Latin phrase per aspera ad astra (“through struggle to the stars”). In 2012, Voyager 1 became the first Earth craft to burst the heliospheric bubble and cross over into interstellar space. And in 2018, Voyager 2 crossed the same threshold.
A tiny speck of a spacecraft cast into the endless sea of outer space, each Voyager craft was designed to drift forever with no set point of arrival. Likewise, the Golden Record was designed to be playable for up to a billion years, despite the long odds that anyone or anything would ever discover and “listen” to it. Much like the Voyager spacecraft themselves, the journey itself was in large part the point—except that instead of capturing scientific data along the way, the Golden Record instead revealed a great deal about its makers and their historico-cultural context.
In The Vinyl Frontier: The Story of the Voyager Golden Record (2019), a book published by Bloomsbury’s Sigma science imprint, author Jonathan Scott captures both the monumental scope of the Voyager mission, relentless as space itself, and the very human dimensions of the Gold Record discs: “When we are all dust, when the Sun dies, these two golden analogue discs, with their handy accompanying stylus and instructions, will still be speeding off further into the cosmos. And alongside their music, photographs and data, the discs will still have etched into their fabric the sound of one woman’s brainwaves—a recording made on 3 June 1977, just weeks before launch. The sound of a human being in love with another human being.”
From sci-fi literature to outer-space superhero fantasies, from Afrofuturism to cosmic jazz to space rock, space-themed artistic expressions often focus on deeply human narratives such as love stories or stories of war. There seems to be something about traveling into outer space, or merely imagining doing so, that bring out many people’s otherwise-obscured humanity—which may help explain all the deadly serious discussions over the most fantastical elements of Star Trek and Star Wars , or Sun Ra and Lady Gaga. In the musical realm, space-based music frequently aims for the most extreme states of human emotion whether body-based or mind-expanding, euphoric or despairing. In other words, these cosmic art forms are pretty much expected to test boundaries and cross thresholds, or at least to make the attempt. The Voyager Golden Record was no exception.
The “executive producer” behind the Golden Record was the world-famous astrophysicist, humanist, and champion of science for the everyman, Carl Sagan (1934–1996). Equally a pragmatist and a populist, he was the perfect individual to oversee the Golden Record with its dual utilitarian and utopian aims. In his 1973 book The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective , Sagan writes that humans have long “wondered whether they are in some sense connected with the awesome and immense cosmos in which the Earth is imbedded,” touching again on the meeting point between everyday mundane realities and “escapist” fantasies, a collision that animates a great deal of science fiction and cosmic-based music. In his personal notes from the time of The Cosmic Connection , Sagan makes reference to music as “a means of interstellar communication.” So how would he utilize music to create these moments of connection and convergence?
It’s little wonder that Sagan endorsed the inclusion of a record on spaceships, with music specially selected to call out to the outer reaches of space. Music was a “universal language” in his telling due to its “mathematical” form, decipherable to any species with a capacity for advanced memory retention and pattern recognition. But this universal quality didn’t stop it from expressing crucial aspects of what earthlings were and what makes us tick, or the many different types of individuals and cultures at work on the planet Earth. Moving beyond the strict utility of mathematics, he also believed that music could communicate the uniquely emotional dimensions of human existence. Whereas previous visual-based messages shot into space “might have encapsulated how we think, this would be the first to communicate something of how we feel” (Scott 2019).
Further refining this idea, Jon Lomberg, a Golden Record team member who illustrated a number of Carl Sagan’s books, argued for an emphasis on “ideal” types of music for the interstellar disc: “The [Golden] Record should be more than a random sampling of Earth’s Greatest Hits...We should choose those forms which are to some degree self-explanatory forms whose rules of structure are evident from even a single example of the form (like fugues and canons, rondos and rounds).”
Ethnomusicologists Alan Lomax and Robert E. Brown were brought in as collaborators, offering their expertise in the world’s music and knowledge of potential recordings to be used. The latter’s first musical recommendation to Sagan hewed to the stated ideal of music which establishes its own structural rules from the get-go—and by association, how these rules may be broken—all overlaid by the yearning of the singer’s voice and the longing expressed in the lyrics. As he described it in his program notes written for Sagan: ‘“Indian vocal music’ by Kesarbai Kerkar…three minutes and 25 seconds long…a solo voice with a seven-tone modal melody with auxiliary pitches [and] a cyclic meter of 14 beats, alongside drone, ‘ornamentation’ and drum accompaniment and some improvisation.” He also gives a partial translation to the words of the music: “Where are you going? Don’t go alone…”
Taken as a whole, the Voyager Golden Record is reminiscent of a mixtape made by an eccentric friend with an encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s music—leaping from track-to-track, across continents and historical periods, crossing heedlessly over the dividing lines drawn between art, folk, and popular musics, but with each track a work of self-contained precision and concision. The disc plays out as a precariously balanced suite of global musical miniatures, a mix where it’s perfectly plausible for Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” to end up sandwiched between a mariachi band and a field recording of Papua New Guinean music recorded by a medical doctor from Australia. Human diversity is the byword, diversity as a trait of humanity itself. The more the individual tracks stand in relief to one another the better.
Given all of this, one could make a plausible case that the Voyager Golden Record helped “invent” a new approach of world music, one where musical crosstalk isn’t subtle or peripheral, but where it’s more like the center pole of musical creation itself. While it’s hardly clear if Sagan or most of his other collaborators had this goal in mind, creative director Ann Druyan certainly did. Or at least she did when it came to her insistence on including Chuck Berry on the Golden Record. As she puts it in a 60 Minutes interview from 2018, “ Johnny B. Goode , rock and roll, was the music of motion, of moving, getting to someplace you've never been before, and the odds are against you, but you want to go. That was Voyager." And so rock ‘n’ roll is turned into true “world music.”
Whether by chance or by design, the Voyager Golden Record anticipated the shifting cultural and aesthetic contexts through which many listeners heard and understood “world music,” a shift that would become blatantly obvious in the decades to come. More than a culturally-sensitive replacement for labels like “exotic music” and “primitive music,” more than a grab bag of unclaimed non-Western musics and vernacular musics, the Golden Record anticipated a sensibility in which the “world” in world music was made more literal—both by fusion-minded musicians, and by music retailers who placed these fusions in newly-designated “world music” sections. (but one must acknowledge that these musical fusions were sometimes problematic in their own right, too often relying on power differentials between borrower and borrowed-from music and musicians)
In this respect, and in other respects beyond our scope here, "world music" embodied many of the contradictions inherent to the rise of globalization, postmodernism, hyperreality, neoliberalism, etc.—coinciding with the crossing of a threshold sometime in the 1970s or ‘80s according to most accounts—with the outcome being a world that’s ever more integrated (the global economy, the global media, global climate change) but also ever more polarized, each dynamic inextricably linked to its polar opposite—a sort of interstellar zone where the normal laws of physics no longer seem to apply.
By taking diversity and juxtaposition as aesthetic ideals rather than drawbacks, the creators of the Voyager Golden Record sketched a sonic portrait of the planet Earth and, at the same time, anticipating the art of the mixtape, yet another trend that would come to fruition in the 1980s. Not unlike a mixtape made for a new friend or a prospective love interest, the Golden Record was designed both to impress —an invitation for aliens to travel across the universe just to meet us—and to express who we are as a people and as a planet.
With the Golden Record as a mixtape-anticipating bid for cosmic connection, it’s fitting that its creative spark was lit in large part by the love affair that developed between Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan in the summer of 1977. To the self-professed surprise of both, they became engaged in the middle of an impulsive phone call and conversation, before they had even officially moved beyond friendship. They remained happily married until Carl Sagan passed away in 1996. On a National Public Radio segment broadcast in 2010, Ann Druyan described the moments leading up to that pivotal phone call and its lifelong aftermath—a relationship made official across space and over a wire—“It was this great eureka moment. It was like scientific discovery.” Several days later, Druyan’s brainwaves were recorded to be included on the Golden Record —her own idea—while she thought about their eternal love.
Given the sudden and unexpected manner in which they fell in love and into sync, it maybe didn’t seem too crazy to believe that infatuation could beset some lonely extraterrestrial who discovered their Golden Record too, especially if this unknown entity plugged into Druyan’s love waves. After all, the Voyager mission itself was planned around a cosmic convergence that only takes place once in the span of several lifetimes. Much like the star-crossed lovers, the stars had to literally align for the mission to be possible at all. The Voyager mission took advantage of a rare formation of the solar system’s most distant four planets that made the trip vastly faster and more feasible, using the gravitational pull of one planet as an “onboard propulsion system” to hurl itself toward the nest destination. With all the jigsaw puzzle pieces so perfectly aligned for the first part of the mission, it would be a shame if some mixtape-loving alien never came for a visit. The main question being if anyone will be here to meet them by the time they get here. As Jimmy Carter put it in his written message attached to the Golden Record:
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.
Dallas Taylor, host of independent podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz, explores the Voyager album track-by-track in episode 65: "Voyager Golden Record." Visit the podcast website to listen.
Written and compiled by Jason Lee Oakes, Editor, Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale (RILM)
This post was produced through a partnership between Smithsonian Year of Music and RILM .
DiGenti, Brian. “Voyager Interstellar Record: 60 Trillion Feet High and Rising.” Wax Poetics 55 (Summer 2013): 96. In the summer of 1977, just after Kraftwerk dropped Trans-Europe Express , Giorgio Moroder offered the world the perfect marriage of German techno with American disco in Donna Summer's "I feel love," the first dance hit produced wholly by synthesizer and the precursor to the underground dance movement. Meanwhile, there was another gold record in the works. The Voyager Interstellar Message Project, a NASA initiative led by astronomer Carl Sagan and creative director Ann Druyan, was a chance at communicating with any intelligent life in outer space. In an unintended centennial celebration of the phonograph, the team created a gold-plated record that would be attached to the Voyager 1 and 2 probes—the Voyager Golden Record—a time capsule to express the wonders of planet Earth in sound and vision. As they were tasked with choosing images and music for this 16-2/3 RPM "cultural Noah's Ark"—a little Mozart, some Chuck Berry, Louis Armstrong, and Blind Willie Johnson—the pair of geniuses fell madly for each other, vowing to marry within their first moments together. Their final touch was to embed Ann's EEG patterns into the record as an example of human brain waves on this thing called love. (author)
Meredith, William. “The Cavatina in Space.” The Beethoven Newsletter 1, no. 2 (Summer 1986): 29–30. When the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration launched its spacecraft Voyager I and II in 1977, each carried a gold-plated copper record intended to serve as a communication to "possible extraterrestrial civilizations.” Each record contains photographs of earth, "the world's greatest music," an introductory audio essay, and greetings to extraterrestrials in 60 languages. Two of the record's eight examples of art music are by Beethoven (the first movement of the symphony no. 5 and the cavatina of the string quartet in B-flat major, op. 130). The symphony no. 5 was selected because of its "compelling" and passionate nature, new physiognomy, innovations, symmetry, and brevity. The cavatina was chosen because of its ambiguous nature, mixing sadness, hope, and serenity. (author)
Sagan, Carl. Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record . New York: Random House, 1978. On 20 August and 5 September 1977, two extraordinary spacecraft called Voyager were launched to the stars (Voyager 1 and Voyager 2). After what promises to be a detailed and thoroughly dramatic exploration of the outer solar system from Jupiter to Uranus between 1979 and 1986, these space vehicles will slowly leave the solar systems—emissaries of the Earth to the realm of the stars. Affixed to each Voyager craft is a gold-coated copper phonograph record as a message to possible extra-terrestrial civilizations that might encounter the spacecraft in some distant space and time. Each record contains 118 photographs of our planet, ourselves, and our civilization; almost 90 minutes of the world's greatest music; an evolutionary audio essay on "The Sounds of Earth"; and greetings in almost 60 human languages (and one whale language), including salutations from the President Jimmy Carter and the Secretary General of the United Nations. This book is an account, written by those chiefly responsible for the contents of the Voyager Record, of why we did it, how we selected the repertoire, and precisely what the record contains.
Scott, Jonathan. The Vinyl Frontier: The Story of the Voyager Golden Record . London: Bloomsbury Sigma, 2019. In 1977, a team led by the great Carl Sagan was put together to create a record that would travel to the stars on the back of NASA's Voyager probe. They were responsible for creating a playlist of music, sounds and pictures that would represent not just humanity, but would also paint a picture of Earth for any future alien races that may come into contact with the probe. The Vinyl Frontier tells the whole story of how the record was created, from when NASA first proposed the idea to Carl to when they were finally able watch the Golden Record rocket off into space on Voyager. The final playlist contains music written and performed by well-known names such as Bach, Beethoven, Glenn Gould, Chuck Berry and Blind Willie Johnson, as well as music from China, India and more remote cultures such as a community in Small Malaita in the Solomon Islands. It also contained a message of peace from US president Jimmy Carter, a variety of scientific figures and dimensions, and instructions on how to use it for a variety of alien lifeforms. Each song, sound and picture that made the final cut onto the record has a story to tell. Through interviews with all of the key players involved with the record, this book pieces together the whole story of the Golden Record. It addresses the myth that the Beatles were left off of the record because of copyright reasons and will include new information about US president Jimmy Carter's role in the record, as well as many other fascinating insights that have never been reported before. It also tells the love story between Carl Sagan and the project's creative director Ann Druyan that flourishes as the record is being created. The Golden Record is more than just a time capsule. It is a unique combination of science and art, and a testament to the genius of its driving force, the great polymath Carl Sagan. (publisher)
Smith, Brad. “Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground’.” The Bulletin of the Society for American Music 41, no. 2 (Spring 2015): . Blind Willie Johnson's 1927 recording of “ Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground ” was included on the copper record that accompanied Voyager I and II into space, placed just before the cavatina of Beethoven's string quartet op. 130. The author searches for the reasons the NASA team considered it among the world's greatest music, relating Johnson's interpretation to the hymn text of the same title written by Thomas Haweis and published in 1792, and analyzing Johnson's slide guitar technique and vocal melismas. Johnson's rhythmic style, with its irregularities, is discussed with reference to Primitive Baptist singing style. (journal)
Scientists' predictions for the long-term future of the Voyager Golden Records will blow your mind
Buckle up, everyone, and let's take a ride on a universe-size time machine.
The future is a slippery thing, but sometimes physics can help. And while human destiny will remain ever unknown, the fate of two of our artifacts can be calculated in staggering detail.
Those artifacts are the engraved "Golden Records" strapped to NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft , which have passed into interstellar space. Although the spacecraft will likely fall silent in a few years, the records will remain. Nick Oberg, a doctoral candidate at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute in the Netherlands, and a colleague wanted to calculate which (if any) stars the two Voyager spacecraft may encounter in the long future of our galaxy.
But the models let them forecast much, much farther into the future. Oberg presented their work at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society , held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, on Jan. 12, where he spun a tale of the long future of the twin Voyagers and their Golden Records.
Related: Pale Blue Dot at 30: Voyager 1's iconic photo of Earth from space reveals our place in the universe
NASA launched Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 in 1977 to trek across the solar system. On each was a 12-inch (30 centimeters) large gold-plated copper disk. The brainchild of famed astronomer Carl Sagan, the Golden Records were engraved with music and photographs meant to represent Earth and its humans to any intelligent beings the spacecraft meet on their long journeys. Both spacecraft visited Jupiter and Saturn, then the twins parted ways: Voyager 1 studied Saturn's moon Titan while Voyager 2 swung past Uranus and Neptune.
In 2012, Voyager 1 passed through the heliopause that marks the edge of the sun's solar wind and entered interstellar space; in 2018, Voyager 2 did so as well. Now, the two spacecraft are chugging through the vast outer reaches of the solar system. They continue to send signals back to Earth, updating humans about their adventures far beyond the planets, although those bulletins may cease in a few years, as the spacecraft are both running low on power .
But their journeys are far from over.
Oberg and his colleague combined tracking the Voyagers' trajectories forward with studying the environments the spacecraft will fly through to estimate the odds of the Golden Records surviving their adventures while remaining legible. The result is a forecast that stretches beyond not just humanity's likely extinction, but also beyond the collision of the Milky Way with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy — beyond even the extinction of most stars.
Related: The Golden Record in pictures: Voyager probes' message to space explained
Milky Way sightseein
Unsurprisingly, the duo's research ambitions didn't start out quite so vast. The new research was inspired by the release of the second batch of data from the European Space Agency's spacecraft Gaia , which specializes in mapping more than a billion stars super precisely.
"Our original goal was to determine with a very high precision which stars the Voyagers might one day closely encounter using the at the time newly released Gaia catalog of stars," Oberg said during his presentation. So he and his co-author began by tracing the Voyagers' journeys to date and projecting their trajectories out into the future.
But don't get excited for any upcoming milestones. Not until about 20,000 years from now will the Voyagers pass through the Oort cloud — the shell of comets and icy rubble that orbits the sun at a distance of up to 100,000 astronomical units, or 100,000 times the average Earth-sun distance — finally waving goodbye to its solar system of origin.
"At that point for the first time the craft will begin to feel the gravitational pull of other stars more strongly than that of our own sun," Oberg said.
It's another 10,000 years before the spacecraft actually come near an alien star, specifically a red dwarf star called Ross 248. That flyby will occur about 30,000 years from now, Oberg said, although it might be a stretch to say that the spacecraft will pass by that star. "It's actually more like Ross 248 shooting past the nearly stationary Voyagers," he said.
By 500 million years from now, the solar system and the Voyagers alike will complete a full orbit through the Milky Way. There's no way to predict what will have happened on Earth's surface by then, but it's a timespan on the scale of the formation and destruction of Pangaea and other supercontinents, Oberg said.
Throughout this galactic orbit, the Voyager spacecraft will oscillate up and down, with Voyager 1 doing so more dramatically than its twin. According to these models, Voyager 1 will travel so far above the main disk of the galaxy that it will see stars at just half the density as we do.
Odds of destruction
The same difference in vertical motion will also shape the differing odds each spacecraft's Golden Record has of survival.
The records were designed to last, meant to survive perhaps a billion years in space : beneath the golden sheen is a protective aluminum casing and, below that, the engraved copper disks themselves. But to truly understand how long these objects may survive, you have to know what conditions they'll experience, and that means knowing where they will be.
Specifically, Oberg and his colleague needed to know how much time the spacecraft would spend swathed in the Milky Way's vast clouds of interstellar dust , which he called "one of the few phenomena that could actually act to damage the spacecraft."
It's a grim scenario, dust pounding into the Voyagers at a speed of a few miles or kilometers per second. "The grains will act as a steady rain that slowly chips away at the skin of the spacecraft," Oberg said. "A dust grain only one-thousandth of a millimeter across will still leave a small vaporized crater when it impacts."
Voyager 1's vertical oscillations mean that spacecraft will spend more time above and below the plane of the galaxy, where the clouds are thickest. Oberg and his colleague simulated thousands of times over the paths of the two spacecraft and their encounters with the dust clouds, modeling the damage the Golden Records would incur along the way.
That work also requires taking into consideration the possibility that a cloud's gravity might tug at one of the Voyagers' trajectories, Oberg said. "The clouds have so much mass concentrated in one place that they actually may act to bend the trajectory of the spacecraft and fling them into new orbits — sometimes much farther out, sometimes even deeper toward the galactic core."
Both Golden Records have good odds of remaining legible, since their engraved sides are tucked away against the spacecraft bodies. The outer surface of Voyager 1's record is more likely to erode away, but the information on Voyager 2's record is more likely to become illegible, Oberg said.
"The main reason for this is because the orbit that Voyager 2 is flung into is more chaotic, and it's significantly more difficult to predict with any certainty of exactly what sort of environment it's going to be flying through," he said.
But despite the onslaught and potential detours, "Both Golden Records are highly likely to survive at least partially intact for a span of over 5 billion years," Oberg said.
Related: Photos from NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 probes
After the Milky Way's end
After those 5 billion years, modeling is tricky. That's when the Milky Way is due to collide with its massive neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy , and things get messy. "The orderly spiral shape will be severely warped, and possibly destroyed entirely," Oberg said. The Voyagers will be caught up in the merger, with the details difficult to predict so far in advance.
Meanwhile, the vicarious sightseeing continues. Oberg and his colleague calculated that in this 5-billion-year model-friendly period, each of the Voyagers likely visits a star besides our sun within about 150 times the distance between Earth and the sun, or three times the distance between the sun and Pluto at the dwarf planet's most distant point.
Precisely which star that might be, however, is tricky — it may not even be a star we know today.
"While neither Voyager is likely to get particularly close to any star before the galaxies collide, the craft are likely to at least pass through the outskirts of some [star] system," Oberg said. "The very strange part is that that actually might be a system that does not yet exist, of a star that has yet to be born."
Such are the perils of working on a scale of billions of years.
From here, the Voyagers' fate depends on the conditions of the galactic merger , Oberg said.
The collision itself might kick a spacecraft out of the newly monstrous galaxy — a one in five chance, he said — although it would remain stuck in the neighborhood. If that occurs, the biggest threat to the Golden Records would become collisions with high-energy cosmic rays and the odd molecule of hot gas, Oberg said; these impacts would be rarer than the dust that characterized their damage inside the Milky Way.
Inside the combined galaxy, the Voyagers' fate would depend on how much dust is left behind by the merger; Oberg said that may well be minimal as star formation and explosion both slow, reducing the amount of dust flung into the galaxy.
Depending on their luck with this dust, the Voyagers may be able to ride out trillions of trillions of trillions of years, long enough to cruise through a truly alien cosmos, Oberg said.
"Such a distant time is far beyond the point where stars have exhausted their fuel and star formation has ceased in its entirety in the universe," he said. "The Voyagers will be drifting through what would be, to us, a completely unrecognizable galaxy, free of so-called main-sequence stars , populated almost exclusively by black holes and stellar remnants such as a white dwarfs and neutron stars."
It's a dark future, Oberg added. "The only source of significant illumination in this epoch will be supernovas that results from the once-in-a-trillion-year collision between these stellar remnants that still populate the galaxy," he said. "Our work, found on these records, thus may bear witness to these isolated flashes in the dark."
Email Meghan Bartels at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
China has made it to Mars .
The nation's first fully homegrown Mars mission, Tianwen-1 , arrived in orbit around the Red Planet today (Feb. 10), according to Chinese media reports.
The milestone makes China the sixth entity to get a probe to Mars, joining the United States, the Soviet Union, the European Space Agency, India and the United Arab Emirates, whose Hope orbiter made it to the Red Planet just yesterday (Feb. 9).
And today's achievement sets the stage for something even more epic a few months from now — the touchdown of Tianwen-1's lander-rover pair on a large plain in Mars' northern hemisphere called Utopia Planitia , which is expected to take place this May. (China doesn't typically publicize details of its space missions in advance, so we don't know for sure exactly when that landing will occur.)
Related: Here's what China's Tianwen-1 Mars mission will do See more: China's Tianwen-1 Mars mission in photos
Book of Mars: $22.99 at Magazines Direct
Within 148 pages, explore the mysteries of Mars. With the latest generation of rovers, landers and orbiters heading to the Red Planet, we're discovering even more of this world's secrets than ever before. Find out about its landscape and formation, discover the truth about water on Mars and the search for life, and explore the possibility that the fourth rock from the sun may one day be our next home.
An ambitious mission
China took its first crack at Mars back in November 2011, with an orbiter called Yinghuo-1 that launched with Russia's Phobos-Grunt sample-return mission . But Phobos-Grunt never made it out of Earth orbit, and Yinghuo-1 crashed and burned with the Russian probe and another tagalong, the Planetary Society's Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment.
Tianwen-1 ( which means "Questioning the Heavens" ) is a big step up from Yinghuo-1, however. For starters, this current mission is an entirely China-led affair; it was developed by the China National Space Administration (with some international collaboration) and launched atop a Chinese Long March 5 rocket on July 23, 2020.
Tianwen-1 is also far more ambitious than the earlier orbiter, which weighed a scant 254 lbs. (115 kilograms). Tianwen-1 tipped the scales at about 11,000 lbs. (5,000 kg) at launch, and it consists of an orbiter and a lander-rover duo.
These craft will take Mars' measure in a variety of ways. The orbiter, for example, will study the planet from above using a high-resolution camera, a spectrometer, a magnetometer and an ice-mapping radar instrument, among other scientific gear.
The orbiter will also relay communications from the rover, which sports an impressive scientific suite of its own. Among the rover's gear are cameras, climate and geology instruments and ground-penetrating radar, which will hunt for pockets of water beneath Mars' red dirt.
Occupy Mars: History of robotic Red Planet missions (infographic)
"On Earth, these pockets can host thriving microbial communities, so detecting them on Mars would be an important step in our search for life on other worlds," the Planetary Society wrote in a description of the Tianwen-1 mission .
The lander, meanwhile, will serve as a platform for the rover, deploying a ramp that the wheeled vehicle will roll down onto the Martian surface. The setup is similar to the one China has used on the moon with its Chang'e 3 and Chang'e 4 rovers, the latter of which is still going strong on Earth's rocky satellite.
If the Tianwen-1 rover and lander touch down safely this May and get to work, China will become just the second nation, after the United States, to operate a spacecraft successfully on the Red Planet's surface for an appreciable amount of time. (The Soviet Union pulled off the first-ever soft touchdown on the Red Planet with its Mars 3 mission in 1971, but that lander died less than two minutes after hitting the red dirt.)
The Tianwen-1 orbiter is scheduled to operate for at least one Mars year (about 687 Earth days), and the rover's targeted lifetime is 90 Mars days, or sols (about 93 Earth days).
Bigger things to come?
Tianwen-1 will be just China's opening act at Mars, if all goes according to plan: The nation aims to haul pristine samples of Martian material back to Earth by 2030, where they can be examined in detail for potential signs of life and clues about Mars' long-ago transition from a relatively warm and wet planet to the cold desert world it is today.
NASA has similar ambitions, and the first stage of its Mars sample-return campaign is already underway. The agency's Perseverance rover will touch down inside the Red Planet's Jezero Crater next Thursday (Feb. 18), kicking off a surface mission whose top-level tasks include searching for signs of ancient Mars life and collecting and caching several dozen samples.
Perseverance's samples will be hauled home by a joint NASA-European Space Agency campaign, perhaps as early as 2031 .
So we have a lot to look forward to in the coming days and weeks, and many reasons to keep our fingers crossed for multiple successful Red Planet touchdowns.
"More countries exploring Mars and our solar system means more discoveries and opportunities for global collaboration," the Planetary Society wrote in its Tianwen-1 description. "Space exploration brings out the best in us all, and when nations work together everyone wins."
Mike Wall is the author of " Out There " (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
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Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.
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Images on the Golden Record
The following is a listing of pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft. The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University, et. al. 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 Waldheim. 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. 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. Once the Voyager spacecraft leave the solar system, they will find themselves in empty space. It will be forty thousand years before they make a close approach to any other planetary system.
A list of images included on The Golden Record, but are not viewable, is listed at the bottom of this page .
The calibration circle image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Credit: Jon Lomberg Please note that these images are copyright protected. Reproduction without permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.
Solar location map
The solar location map image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Credit: Frank Drake Please note that these images are copyright protected. Reproduction without permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.
The mathematical definitions image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Physical unit definitions
The physical unit definitions image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Solar system parameters
The solar system parameters image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
The solar spectrum image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Credit: National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Cornell University (NAIC) Please note that these images are copyright protected. Reproduction without permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.
The Mercury image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Credit: NASA Please note that these images are copyright protected. Reproduction without permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.
The Mars image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
The Jupiter image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
The Earth image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Egypt, Red Sea, Sinal Peninsula and the Nile
The Egypt, Red Sea, Sinal Peninsula and the Nile image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
The chemical definitions image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
The DNA structure image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
DNA structure magnified, light hit
The DNA structure magnified, light hit image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Diagram of conception
The diagram of conception image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
The fetus diagram image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Diagram of male and female
The nursing mother image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Credit UN/DPI Photo Please note that these images are copyright protected. Reproduction without permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.
Diagram of family ages
The diagram of family ages image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Diagram of continental drift
The diagram of continental drift image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Structure of Earth
The structure of Earth image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Heron Island (Great Barrier Reef of Australia)
The Heron Island (Great Barrier Reef of Australia) image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Credit: Dr. Jay M. Pasachoff Please note that these images are copyright protected. Reproduction without permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.
Diagram of vertebrate evolution
The diagram of vertebrate evolution image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Sketch of bushmen
The sketch of bushmen image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Man from Guatemala
The man from Guatemala image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Credit: UN/DPI Photo Please note that these images are copyright protected. Reproduction without permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.
Sprinters (Valeri Borzov of the U.S.S.R. in lead)
The sprinters (Valeri Borzov of the U.S.S.R. in lead) image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Credit: History of the Olympics, Picturepoint, London Please note that these images are copyright protected. Reproduction without permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.
The schoolroom image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Children with globe
The children with globe image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
The supermarket image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Credit: National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC) Please note that these images are copyright protected. Reproduction without permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.
Fishing boat with nets
The fishing boat with nets image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Demonstration of licking, eating and drinking
The demonstration of licking, eating and drinking image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
House construction (African)
The house construction (African) image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
The house (Africa) image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Modern house (Cloudcroft, New Mexico)
The modern house (Cloudcroft, New Mexico) image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
UN Building Day
The UN building day image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
UN Building Night
The UN building night image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
X-ray of hand
The X-ray of hand image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Woman with microscope
The woman with microscope image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
The street scene image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Rush hour traffic (Thailand)
The modern highway image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Airplane in flight
The airplane in flight image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Radio telescope (Arecibo)
The radio telescope (Arecibo) image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Page of book (Newton, System of the World)
The page of book (Newton, System of the World) image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Astronaut in space
The astronaut in space image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Titan Centaur launch
The Titan Centaur launch image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Violin with music score (Cavatina)
The violin with music score (Cavatina) image is one of the pictures electronically placed on the phonograph records which are carried onboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
- Due to copyright restrictions, only a subset of the images on the Golden Record are displayed above.
- All of these images are copyright protected. Reproduction without permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.
List of additional images, not featured in gallery, but exist on The Golden Record:
- The Sun, Hale observatories
- Cells and cell division, Turtox/Cambosco
- Anatomy 1, World Book
- Anatomy 2, World Book
- Anatomy 3, World Book
- Anatomy 4, World Book
- Anatomy 5, World Book
- Anatomy 6, World Book
- Anatomy 7, World Book
- Anatomy 8, World Book
- Human sex organs, Sinauer Associates, Inc.
- Conception , Albert Bonniers; Forlag, Stockholm
- Fertilized ovum, Albert Bonniers; Forlag, Stockholm
- Fetus, Dr. Frank Allan
- Birth, Wayne Miller
- Father and daughter (Malaysia), David Harvey
- Group of children, Ruby Mera, UNICEF
- Family portrait, Nina Leen, Time, Inc.
- Seashore, Dick Smith
- Snake River and Grand Tetons, Ansel Adams
- Sand dunes, George Mobley
- Monument Valley, Shostal Associates, Inc.
- Forest scene with mushrooms, Bruce Dale
- Leaf, Arthur Herrick
- Fallen leaves, Jodi Cobb
- Snowflake over Sequoia, Josef Muench, R. Sisson
- Tree with daffodils, Gardens Winterthur, Winterthur Museum
- Flying insect with flowers, Borne on the Wind, Stephen Dalton
- Seashell (Xancidae), Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
- Dolphins, Thomas Nebbia
- School of fish, David Doubilet
- Tree toad, Dave Wickstrom
- Crocodile, Peter Beard
- Eagle, Donona, Taplinger Publishing Co.
- Waterhole, South African Tourist Corp.
- Jane Goodall and chimps, Vanne Morris-Goodall
- Bushmen hunters, R. Farbman, Time, Inc.
- Dancer from Bali, donna Grosvenor
- Andean girls, Joseph Scherschel
- Thailand craftsman, Dean conger
- Elephant, Peter Kunstadter
- Old man with beard and glasses (Turkey), Jonathon Blair
- Old man with dog and flowers, Bruce Baumann
- Mountain climber, Gaston Rebuffat
- Gymnast, Philip Leonian, Sports Illustrated
- Cotton harvest, Howell Walker
- Grape picker, David Moore
- Underwater scene with diver and fish, Jerry Greenberg
- Cooking fish, Cooking of Spain and Portugal, Time-Life Books
- Chinese dinner party, Time-Life Books
- Great Wall of China, H. Edward Kim
- Construction scene (Amish country), William Albert Allard
- House (New England), Robert Sisson
- House interior with artist and fire, Jim Amos
- Taj Mahal, David Carroll
- English city (Oxford), C.S. Lewis, Images of His World, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
- Boston, Ted Spiegel
- Sydney Opera House, Mike Long
- Artisan with drill, Frank Hewlett
- Factory interior, Fred Ward
- Museum, David Cupp
- Golden Gate Bridge, Ansel Adams
- Train, Gordon Gahan
- Airport (Toronto), George Hunter
- Antarctic Expedition, Great Adventures with the National Geographic National Geographic
- Radio telescope (Westerbork, Netherlands), James Blair
- Sunset with birds, David Harvey
- String Quartet (Quartetto Italiano), Phillips Recordings
- Featured Videos /
Decoding images from the Golden Record
It’s more complicated and less pretty than you’d expect.
By Cory Zapatka
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More than 11 billion miles away from Earth, two small discs are rocketing through space at speeds in excess of 37,200 miles per hour. Their journey started in 1977, when NASA sent the two Golden Records into space, bolted to the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft. The records contain a treasure trove of information about our home planet, including sounds, songs, and images from Earth.
At the moment, the records are just hangers-on to the Voyagers’ current mission , to document the outer limits of the Sun’s influence on the Solar System. By 2030, however, both Voyagers will cease communicating with NASA, but they will continue sailing through space. At that point, they will have only one mission: continue on with the Golden Records in hopes that another advanced civilization, somewhere in the galaxy, intercepts them.
The audio contained on the record should be fairly easy to decode — extraterrestrials will only need to figure out the correct speed and rotation of the disks, place the included stylus within the grooves of the record, and jam out to Chuck Berry, Mozart, and the sounds of the Earth.
Unscrambling the images contained on the record — that’s going to be a little bit harder.
You might think that the images were included in some printed or digital form, such as a .jpeg or .tiff. But back in 1977, there was no technology available to put images on analog disks. Voyager’s computer systems could only hold 69 kilobytes of information, barely enough for one image, let alone 115. So NASA invented a way to include image data on the LPs.
By projecting images onto a screen, recording them with a television camera, and then turning those video signals into audio waveforms, the images could be properly pressed onto the records. The reversal process — turning that image data back into images — is what any extraterrestrial (or curious human) would have to figure out how to do.
Luckily, NASA engineers included instructions on the cover of the record to help decode the data contained on the disks. And without access to 1970’s technology and expertise, the guidelines were tricky for us to follow. But after learning a lot from the DIY community, including from Ron Barry, who wrote his own in-depth guide to decoding the disks , we were able to see the data.
We tried two alternate methods using Microsoft Excel and Python — and were amazed to find that even 40 years later and with completely different technology, it was still possible to unravel images from the audio waves.
Maybe extraterrestrials will be able to figure this out after all.
Take a look at the video to see how we decoded the Golden Record — and maybe give it a try yourself.
Verge Science on YouTube /
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You, Too, Could Own a Copy of the Voyager Golden Record
Ozma records is producing a box set of the album sent into the cosmos to reach out to potential extraterrestrial life
Record collectors shell out tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for rare discs by the Beatles or early blues artists. However, there’s one disc many collectors (and every space nerds) covets but will never get their hands on: the Golden Record. Now, a group of science enthusiasts and vinyl aficionados have teamed up to make a version of the disc available to the masses.
In 1977, 12-inch gold-plated copper discs were placed aboard the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes. The records were housed in an aluminum sleeve bearing instructions on how to play them and included a needle and a cartridge. The contents, curated by a committee headed by astronomer Carl Sagan, include 115 encoded analog images from Earth, natural sounds like birds, whales, and a baby’s cry, music by Bach, Beethoven, and Chuck Berry, greetings in 55 languages and written messages from then-President Jimmy Carter and U.N. General Secretary Kurt Waldheim.
“The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space,” Sagan noted . “But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet."
According to Megan Molteni at Wired , NASA pressed a dozen of the records, ten of which were distributed to NASA facilities. The other two are 13 billion miles from Earth on Voyager 1 and 2. Despite his requests, even Carl Sagan never received a copy. Just getting a glimpse of a Golden Record is difficult, reports Kenneth Chang for The New York Times . A copy of the record's aluminum cover is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The record itself is can be viewed in an auditorium at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, which is open during public lectures.
That’s why the group calling itself Ozma Records decided to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Voyager launches by reissuing the Golden Record as a box set. Last week, they listed their project on Kickstarter with a goal of raising $198,000 to produce the facsimile. The project blasted past that goal in just two days and at last count received pledges worth $658,000 from almost 5,300 backers.
The $98 reissue isn’t exactly the same as the Voyager disks. For one thing, it’s pressed from yellow vinyl, not actual copper and gold, Chang reports. It will come on 3 LPs, which are designed to be played at 33 rpm, versus the original which plays at 16.5 rpm to accommodate all the photos, messages and 90 minutes of music on a single disc. The box set will also include a hardbound book about the history and production of the record along with printed photos of the images included on the disk. An MP3 version of the audio will also be available for $15.
“When you’re seven years old, and you hear about a group of people creating messages for possible extraterrestrial intelligence,” Ozma Records' David Pescovitz, managing partner at Boing Boing and research director at Institute for the Future, tells Chang, “that sparks the imagination. The idea always stuck with me.”
In 1978, Sagan and his colleagues published Murmurs of the Earth, the story of the Golden Record’s creation, which included a track list from the record. A 1992 CD-ROM of the book was reissued including a digital re-creation of the Golden Record. But this is the first time the public has had access to the recording in the format that an alien civilization may encounter it. The production team is trying to keep the disks as close to the original as possible, and are working with science writer Timothy Ferris, who produced the original, to remaster the recordings.
“The thinking on the original was so genius that who am I to change anything about it, you know?” experienced album designer Lawrence Azerrad, who is curating the album packaging tells Molteni. “It’d be like listening to Mozart and saying, ‘Oh I think that bridge was a little fast.’ This is an awesome snapshot of who we are as the human race, and we want all of that to just sing and be as pure as possible.”
The recently acquired permissions to publish the music on the collection and expects to ship the box sets sometime during 2017, Voyager’s anniversary year.
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Jason Daley | | READ MORE
Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover , Popular Science , Outside , Men’s Journal , and other magazines.
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Will Aliens Understand Voyager's Golden Record?
Could an alien observer truly understand the messages we have sent to the stars.
The Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft famously contain messages to anyone who might someday find them. Both Pioneers carry a plaque, while the Voyagers carry a phonograph record. An enormous amount of effort went into creating these objects, but could an alien observer truly understand the messages we have sent to the stars?
While we cannot take anything for granted when it comes to how these messages might or might not be interpreted, let’s assume that the beings who might find the spacecraft can at least see or hear with eyes or ears similar to our own. Each message was designed with not only the information it was to carry in mind, but also the means to establish understanding through common denominators found throughout the universe.
The Pioneer Plaque
Pioneer 10 and 11 each carry a 6 x 9-inch (15 x 23 centimeters), gold-anodized aluminum plaque. The plaque is affixed to support struts close to the spacecraft’s bus (main body). Carl Sagan and Frank Drake played key roles in designing the plaque and Linda Salzman Sagan, Sagan’s wife at the time, was the artist who actually drew the images engraved on the plaque.
The most striking feature of the plaque are the figures of the man and the woman overlying the silhouette of the Pioneer spacecraft itself. While this does clearly convey our physical size and shape, as well as that sexual dimorphism is present in humans, the facial features of the couple have little detail and the sort of sensory organs are being depicted (the couple’s ears are barely shown at all) might be unclear. The man and woman both have their mouths closed, and viewers might not understand that these are even mouths at all. Given how the image is drawn, an observer could also be forgiven for not understanding that both the male and female have hair on their heads.
The couple both have a bland expression (which may have been an attempt to avoid anything that could be interpreted as hostile) and the man is seen raising his right hand with the palm facing the viewer. While this gesture clearly conveys a greeting when viewed by another human, an extraterrestrial may have no way of interpreting this gesture. (Could you interpret a gesture made by an antelope … or a praying mantis?) It does show, however, that humans have opposable thumbs, as well as the general range of motion of the upper limbs.
With regards to the scientific data presented, the top left of the plaque shows the hyperfine transition of neutral hydrogen as a means of conveying to the reader baseline units of time (0.7 nanoseconds, the frequency of the transition) and distance (21 cm, the wavelength of the light released by the transition). If one is able to deduce that the image is that of hydrogen, the time and distance should be understandable.
The plaque also contains a map of our sun relative to 14 pulsars as well as the center of our galaxy, conveying both the distances to the pulsars and their frequency in binary notation. As this image conveys copious objective data, a spacefaring species might well be able to easily interpret it.
Finally, the plaque contains a map of the solar system. The solar system map is likely among the more easily interpreted parts of the plaque, with Pioneer shown to have originated from the third planet. The plaque was created at a time when Pluto was still considered the ninth planet (before the discovery of other trans-Neptunian dwarf planets such as Eris and Sedna, among others), but it would still direct the reader’s attention to Earth if they were able to figure out that our solar system was the one depicted.
Voyager’s Golden Record
The Voyager record asks more of whoever finds it but gives more information in return. These phonographs, attached to the spacecraft bus, feature a cover illustration and over 90 minutes of audio on the reverse side. The cover illustration features the same image of hydrogen and the same pulsar map as found on the Pioneer plaque. Of critical importance, the Voyager records convey instructions on how to play them, such as how to affix the attached stylus, at what rate of rotation the record must be spun, and the proper waveform of signals generated by the record. It also explicitly tells the reader how to know if they are viewing the images properly via an engraving of what the first image (a circle) should look like. While this may seem very daunting, the challenge is primarily technical and might well be easily overcome by an advanced spacefaring species.
An alien species might well find more difficulty in interpreting the audio samples, music, and images contained on the record. There are over 50 greeting messages in different languages. While the specifics of the messages are likely to be uninterpretable, they would at least convey to the listener the diversity of the creatures who created the Voyagers.
Similarly, the musical selections chosen demonstrate a wide range of human musical styles (ranging from works of Beethoven and Stravinsky to those of Chuck Berry, among others). While the lyrics of “Johnny B. Goode” are probably gibberish to an extraterrestrial, the beat and rhythm of the song would convey a tremendous amount to an alien listener.
Of perhaps the greatest importance are the 115 images encoded on the record. The first six images, if decoded properly, provide immense technical data for the reader regarding mathematical definitions, scales and sizes, as well as additional information regarding our location and how to find us. Images of the sun and its spectrum, as well as some of the planets in our solar system, could help the discoverer of the Voyagers to find us should they decide to pay the Earth a visit. There are also approximately 20 medical and scientific diagrams including the structure of DNA and detailed images of human anatomy. These images could likely be interpreted correctly given their concrete nature.
The Voyager record also contains a plethora of images of humans engaged in a variety of activities (including eating, looking through a microscope, and even going on a spacewalk). While many of these images would be hard to interpret (e.g., a picture of a woman licking an ice cream cone or a photo of a string quartet) the images would at least convey that humans have created a complex civilization with some degree of advanced technology.
The Big Picture
As Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The medium is the message.” While the recipients of the Pioneer plaque or the Voyager record might never understand everything we are trying to convey, the fact that these messages were placed on interstellar spacecraft carry (both for them and for us) a deeper message — that humans created these spacecraft and that we want to tell the universe who we are.
- extraterrestrial life
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Golden Disk (Voyager)
From Transformers Wiki
The Golden Disk from the Voyager probe is a recurring object throughout the Beast Wars. It plays a major role in the escalation of the conflict between the Maximals and the Predacons and leads to the death of Dinobot . It is eventually destroyed, but the Predacon leader, Megatron , recovers one of the shards and shows a Cybertronian government agent a piece of a message that was enscripted into it by his former boss .
Beast Wars cartoon continuity
Beast wars cartoon.
Sometime within roughly a decade of when the Transformers aboard the Ark awoke in the eruption of Mount St. Hilary , the humans of planet Earth launched a primitive robotic spacecraft to study the outer planets in their solar system. Attached to this spacecraft was a gold disk which contained information about Earth. Megatron , the leader of the Decepticons , acquired it at some point and encoded an additional message on the disk.
Megatron's message ordered any Decepticons who might, in the future, come across it to use transwarp technology to travel to the past The Agenda (Part 2) and use the Teletraan I codes encoded on the disk to access the Ark while its occupants were inert and kill Optimus Prime . This, in turn, would change history so that the Decepticons could win the Great War . The Agenda (Part III)
At some point between Decepticon Megatron adding his message to the disk and the beginning of the Beast Wars , the spacecraft holding the disk—or perhaps only the disk—fell into the hands of the Transformers . It was seemingly considered a precious artifact, even though the general population of Maximals had no idea what it really was (and even some Predacons—like the reformatted Decepticon Ravage—didn't have a clue). The Maximal Elders were presumably aware of the Disk's origin.
The Predacons stole the Golden Disk; Megatron claimed that the disk held the location of a vast store of energon, with which the Predacon commander believed he could reignite the Great War against the Maximals. Beast Wars (Part 1)
Dinobot broke into the Predacon base and stole the Golden Disk. He then climbed to a high peak where he pontificated to himself about the potential power the wielder of the Golden Disk could hold, and the potential danger that came with it. On a personal level, he felt that it could either confirm or destroy his own reason for being. He needed to believe himself the master of his own fate, and if history could not be changed, then he could only believe himself a deterministic pawn. He eventually decided that the most prudent thing to do with an item of infinite power was to shove it under a large rock. Coming of the Fuzors (Part 1)
Later, he noticed that the Predacons had been setting up installations around their base in a pattern that matched the shape of one of the symbols on the disk. Realizing that Megatron still meant to alter history, Dinobot rejoined him to discover the truth of his own destiny. He led Megatron to the location of the Golden Disk and presented it to him. Shortly afterwards, Dinobot defected to the Maximals once again, but Megatron escaped with the Golden Disk. Maximal, No More
Not long afterwards, Megatron began testing history's mutability, discovering through the images contained in the disk that he had the power to alter the timeline. The Predacons attacked the valley from which humanity's ancestors would emerge, but Dinobot launched a one-man berserker attack on the Predacons, single-handedly defeating them and shattering the Golden Disk with his last bit of energy. Code of Hero
Megatron was captured by Covert Agent Ravage for violations of the Pax Cybertronia , but revealed that he still possessed a lone fragment of the Golden Disk, which contained a message encoded by the original Megatron. He played it for Ravage, convincing the former Decepticon to release the Predacon and join forces with him. The Agenda (Part 2)
Dreamwave Generation One continuity
As a Predacon and Dinobot were building up their band of rebels, they infiltrated the Vector Sigma chamber. This irked Dinobot, who didn't understand why they were wasting time "raiding an old library". But his leader was enraptured by his find: A Golden Disk filled with information on individual Autobots and Decepticons , the history of Cybertron, details about other planets, and cutting-edge technology in the early 21st century. He said it was the key to his future, and after viewing it, he declared himself "Megatron". More than Meets the Eye #8
Theft of the Golden Disk
Megatron was tasked by his mentor Cryotek to retrieve a Data-Con that would reveal the location of the Golden Disk. Megatron pulled a double-cross on Cryotek, leaving him to the Maximal Command Security Force while he uncovered the Disk's location, and went to claim it for himself. Theft of the Golden Disk
- Dawn of Future's Past
Hall of Fame bios
The Hall of Records was the site of the Golden Disk's theft. Waspinator's 2011 bio
War for Cybertron Trilogy cartoon
Though no one knew of its origin, the Golden Disk was eventually used by Megatron to record his memoirs throughout the war for Cybertron . Comprising of all his strategies, secrets, and the battles he fought, the record only responded to his unique energon signature . Kingdom episode 1 Megatron also chronicled his hunt for the AllSpark on Earth , Kingdom episode 3 including when he failed during an encounter with Optimus Prime , thereby losing the war. Kingdom episode 4 After killing Optimus Prime, Megatron lamented on the Golden Disk that they should have worked together, though shortly after he was found by Unicron and painfully reformatted into servitude as Galvatron . Kingdom episode 5
Using the Dead Universe to move through time and prevent his enslavement under Unicron, Kingdom episode 6 Galvatron traveled back to when Megatron entered the Dead Universe. After being found by Unicron, Galvatron attempted to turn over the Golden Disk in another desperate chance to change the past, but it disappeared as he did. Earthrise episode 5 In his proper time, Galvatron, with the Golden Disk in tow, passed by the Voyager spacecraft and swore to Unicron that he would find a way to break free from the Chaos Bringer's servitude. Kingdom episode 1
The Golden Disk eventually wound up in the possession of the Maximals . Kingdom episode 2 Galvatron manipulated Predacon Megatron and his band of Predacon thieves to steal the disk and take it to Megatron in the past, in the hopes that they could change time and avert his servitude to Unicron. Kingdom episode 6 Predacon Megatron later decrypted a few minutes of the Golden Disk and retraced the original Megatron's steps back to Earth Kingdom episode 1 but was chased by the Maximals aboard the Axalon , seeking to prevent. Kingdom episode 4
Following the Predacon's success, the original Megatron used the Disk to prepare his troops against an Autobot/Maximal assault but the foreknowledge proved for naught as his forces' unruliness allowed their foes to escape. Kingdom episode 2
Using the Golden Disk, Megatron began closing on the resting place of the Allspark Kingdom episode 3 and to later get the drop on Starscream's latest bout of treachery. Kingdom episode 4 Nonetheless, Starscream had managed to draw energon from Megatron allowing Blackarachnia to build a device that would read the Golden Disk via the spilled sample. Realizing Blackarachnia had duped him, Starscream stole the Disk reader and accessed its contents. As he laughed at seeing the record of Megatron being turned into Galvatron and enslaved by Unicron, the Chaos Bringer began speaking to Starscream through the Disk. Traumatized by what he'd heard, Starscream flew off to the Ark and gave the Golden Disk to Bumblebee , trusting the Autobot to make better use of its contents to save Cybertron. To Starscream's horror, Bumblebee proceeded to boldly shatter the Disk, preferring to confront the uncertainty of the future with courage. Kingdom episode 5
War for Cybertron Trilogy marketing material
The Voyager Golden Disk held the power to change the universe forever. Kingdom webpage  It carried three destinies each for the Ark , Blackarachnia , Dinobot , Megatron , and Optimus Prime , and only one for the otherworldly Unicron . Kingdom Golden Disk destinies
2021 Beast Wars comic
The Golden Disk was originally attached to an alien space probe. After making enough trips through time for the Disk to be saturated in unspace energy, the probe crashed on an asteroid in the Upsilonus Belt where it was found by Landquake who brought it to the Wheeljack Ministry of Science . The scientists quickly decoded the surface files of the Disk's planet of origin only to discover more heavily encrypted ones. After decrypting a single file, that revealed the location of a planet rich with energon , the scientists chose to downplay the significance of what they'd found. Disagreeing, Reptilion leaked word of the Disk to the Predacon separatist Galavar , hoping that the rogue could steal the Disk, decode it and deliver its contents to the whole of Cybertron. Maximals Strike Back, Part 1
Once the theft was complete, Galavar chose to rename himself "Megatron", showing off the relic to Tripredacus Council as he declared his defection. The separatists fled aboard a stolen warship which was engaged by the Axalon , both crafts crash landing on another world in another time. Savage Landing Part 1
Confirming the large bounty of energon to be had, Megatron devoted himself to decrypting the remainder of the Golden Disk's files to no avail. Savage Landing Part 2 After a battle with the Maximals who caused the crash, Megatron managed to decode another of the Disk's files, which turned out to be a message from his future self. Before he could hear anything of value, the file deleted itself as it was irreversibly corrupted. Pod Part 1
After welcoming Razorbeast into their ranks, the Maximals attacked the Darksyde to claim the Golden Disk, Maximals Strike Back, Part 1 interrupting Megatron's latest attempt to decode it. Leaving his chambers unguarded, Rattrap eventually snuck in and found the Disk. Maximals Strike Back, Part 2
Removing the Disk though caused Megatron's quarters to lockdown. As Rattrap waited for rescue, he copied the Disk's files before Optimus and Nyx saved him. As the three fled, Megatron trapped them in a force field . Unfazed, Optimus threatened to destroy the Golden Disk, highlighting the Darksyde ' s destroyed Transwarp Drive and bluffing that the Axalon was wired to self-destruct, making the Predacons unable to steal another version of it. Unwilling to lose the Disk, Megatron agreed to Primal's terms and released the Maximals. Maximals Strike Back, Part 3
When Megatron rematerialized following the death of the Vok, he reminded himself to record the warning on the Golden Disk so that his past self would see it. The End
Toys & Merchandise
Robot Heroes (2008)
- Silverbolt vs Megatron
- Dinobot (Beast Wars) (2018)
War for Cybertron: Kingdom
- Hasbro ID number : WFC-K30
- Chapter 4: The Terrorfying [ sic ] Conclusion
- Accessories : Golden Disk (Vok), blaster, arm blades
- Accessories : Golden Disk
- Beast Wars Megatron (2023)
- " Fires of the Past " shows a statue of Optimus Prime holding two golden disks outside the Cybertron Archives . Neither the Optimus Prime statue nor the golden disks in its hands are mentioned in the script. However, writer Bob Skir suggested that they were either the disks from the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes, or that Optimus won them in the 2,395,989th Annual Cybertronian spelling bee. 
The real Golden Disk
The Golden Disk that appears in Beast Wars is based on a real object: In 1977 , NASA launched two spacecraft called Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 , which flew by our planetary system's four gas giants. (Jupiter and Saturn were visited by both craft, Uranus and Neptune only by Voyager 2 .) The Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft which preceded them had carried copies of a plaque depicting human beings and showing the location of Earth with respect to several highly-visible pulsars. For the Voyager mission, a more sophisticated message was composed.
The "disk" consists of a cover or canister—on which a set of pictograms are found—and a phonograph record inside the canister. The record, titled "The Sounds of Earth", has a "data" portion and a sound portion. In the data portion are over a hundred encoded images including photographs of the Earth and its lifeforms, as well as drawings of human biology and reproduction. The audio portion includes sounds of natural environments on Earth, wildlife, human voices, and music. The pictograms on the record's cover explain how to play the disc and decode the images.
As portrayed in Beast Wars , the Golden Disk seems to be an amalgam of the cover and the record itself. It appears to be at least a few centimeters thick and has the cover's pictograms on one side, but the record grooves and title "The Sounds of Earth" on the other. The indication is that the cover is one-sided, and we are seeing the record through the empty rear, as later episodes would present the disc in its real-life, thin, record form.
- Japanese: Golden Disk (ゴールデンディスク Gōruden Disuku )
- ↑ Kingdom webpage
- ↑ Amazon product description: "Includes a Golden Disk (Voyager) accessory and his blaster accessory."
- ↑ Q&A from Bigbot's "bobskir.com" (archive copy)
- NASA's web site on the continuing Voyager mission
- The message on the actual disks
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- This page was last modified on 3 January 2024, at 13:02.
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Beyond the Stars: The Enduring Legacy of NASA’s Voyager Mission
S pace enthusiasts received saddening news recently that NASA’s oldest operating spacecraft, Voyager 1, has started sending bad data transmissions, signifying what might be the end of the 46-year-old NASA craft.
Where the Sun’s Rays End
Voyager 1 left Earth on September 5, 1977, finally leaving our solar system in 2012. It would become a record-breaking spacecraft, becoming the most distant object with which humans have communicated. Its current location is some 15 billion miles away, way outside the heliosphere, where the sun’s magnetic reach ends.
The Voyager Program, which includes Voyager 1’s partner probe, Voyager 2, was meant to last five years, giving NASA valuable close-up data from our solar system. It has since closely examined Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, even discovering the first extraterrestrial volcanic activity on Saturn’s moon, Io.
The Golden Records
When the lone spacecraft first left Earth’s atmosphere, gasoline was $0.62 a gallon, while most families had no issues affording a house on one salary. Children at the time still remember the famous golden records with sounds of the Earth stored aboard both Voyager missions. The records were sent into deep space with instructions on the B-side for any alien lifeforms who might encounter the message.
Amazingly, the old binary code sent back to Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Altadena from Voyager 1’s dated instruments has been communicating flawlessly since 1981, when the last recorded glitch happened. In November, bad data began arriving from the lonely space probe and continues to come.
Keeping in Touch
What makes this sad decline more poignant is the skeleton crew of space enthusiasts still in contact with the plutonium-powered, smart car-sized space probe. A group of scientists operating from a small office space near a McDonald’s branch in Altadena, a Los Angeles County town north of Pasadena, Voyager 1’s birthplace.
The documentary It’s Quieter in the Twilight details how a group of rocket scientists keep the Voyager torch burning from their base. The Voyager project team started with roughly 200 members, now sitting at 12, and made up of people who mostly didn’t know the program was still operational.
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An aging project and team.
The fact that Voyager 1 has broken past the sun’s electromagnetic hold has been remarkable for what it taught astrophysicists about the shape of our heliosphere — name that for good reason. Had the brave little ship not made it this far, scientists would never have been able to know this.
Project manager Suzanne Dodd says in the film how most scientists charting Voyager’s journey are aging, so keeping track of the ship will be in a race against time — or against retirement — to keep Voyager 1 in contact. “It may be a race between how long we as individuals live,” says Dodd, “versus how long the spacecraft can still communicate with us.”
Coming to an End
NASA lists the Voyager project as having five major scientific purposes : magnetic field, low-energy charged particle, plasma, cosmic ray, and plasma wave investigations.
“The Voyager Interstellar Mission has the potential for obtaining useful interplanetary, and possibly interstellar, fields, particles, and waves science data until around the year 2020,” NASA explains, “when the spacecraft’s ability to generate adequate electrical power for continued science instrument operation will come to an end.”
For those dedicated professionals holding onto memories of their oldest spacecraft, they can at least retire with a smile, knowing Voyager 1 managed to keep sending data past its own retirement date — refusing to give up, which is something they will always have in common.