Golden record

Do you believe there’s life beyond planet Earth?

This is an insoluble question that has surely come to mind more than once. Let’s imagine for a moment that extraterrestrial life in fact does exist, and that, being totally oblivious of human existence on Earth, you had to be able to sum it all up in an understandable way.

In 1977, NASA launched the Voyager Golden Records into space. Chaired by a committee from Cornell University, these two phonograph records contain a selection of sounds and images that are intended to enclose life on Earth.

Each record is fully protected and explains the spacecraft’s mission and instructions on how to play the records in a symbolic language.

The compilation contains:

  • A total of 115 images encoded in analog form that include photographs and diagrams both in black and white and in colour. They show different mathematical and physical quantities as well as  the basics of science and the measurements that appear on every picture, which are likely to be consistent anywhere in the universe.
  • They also manage to create an overview of humankind by exposing DNA, anatomy and reproduction. There are several images of people from a wide range of cultures and etnias in different scenarios, as well as several human creations such as a train, a house, a museum or a telescope. Apart from human life, the record includes pictures of nature and animals, such as a toad or an eagle.
  • The images are reinforced by the recordings of different kinds of natural sounds: meteorological conditions such as rain or thunder; animal sounds such whales and birds; human activity such as laughter, heartbeats or footsteps; sounds that emerge from human creations like tractors of cars.
  • A varied musical selection from different cultures and eras, including classical music geniuses such as Bach, Mozart or Beethoven.  
  • Spoken greetings given by different people in fifty-five languages.
  • Printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim. Here’s an extract:
  • “We cast this message into the cosmos ... Of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, some – perhaps many – may have inhabited planets and space faring civilizations. If one such civilization intercepts Voyager and can understand these recorded contents, here is our message: 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. We hope some day, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations. This record represents our hope and our determination and our goodwill in a vast and awesome universe.”
  • The inspirational message Per aspera ad astra in Morse code, which is a famous latin phrase meaning “through hardships to the stars”.
  • A recording of Ann Druyan’s brain waves. She was Carl Sagan’s wife, who, as we mentioned before, was the Voyager’s chairman. The recording is an hour long and contains different waves, as Druyan thought of many topics, including Earth's history, civilizations and the problems they face.


How would you describe our planet to aliens from outer space?

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