The circle of life
IN 1977 NASA launched two probes – Voyager 1 and 2 – into space on a journey with no end. They are still going, and still transmitting information back to base. As you read this, they are about 16 billion kilometres from Earth, whacking along at 55,000 km/h.
The Voyager craft embodied the peak of technology when they were launched. Each included an informationpacked gold LP record. The duplicate artefacts, designed as a greeting card from humanity, are intended to be decipherable by any alien civilisation able to figure out that a pin in a moving groove renders an audible (and visual) translation of the lumps and bumps therein.
There were only half a dozen or so of the original gold records ever made, but now the rest of us can own our very own copy – sort of – thanks to a tiny US record company called Ozma. After a massively over-subscribed Kickstarter campaign, the company released a box set comprising the original recordings (now spread over three gold-coloured vinyl albums), a book containing photographs also encoded on the original, and (as a bonus for record-collectors) a turntable slip-mat showing the crafts’ routes out of the Solar System.
The run sold out in seconds. Available for the moment only on resale platforms, the Ozma Voyager box set is already a much sought-after collectors’ item.
The content, decided by a committee headed by astronomer Carl Sagan, includes music from societies around the globe, the sounds of nature – whales singing, birds calling, that sort of thing – and people relaying greetings and best wishes in many different languages.
Unfortunately, in retrospect, the first greeting is from the then United Nations head Kurt Waldheim, who shortly after endured the disgrace of being exposed as a WWII intelligence officer complicit in German war crimes. Aliens are unlikely to care much about this, but it does make for a slightly awkward moment for human listeners now.
It isn’t really something you will want to play more than once. You may, however, still cherish it and, in time, bequeath it to your children.