On this day in 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1 on a grand tour of the solar system and into the mysteries of interstellar space. (It followed the launch of Voyager 2 a few weeks earlier.)
Attached to each of these probes is a beautiful golden record containing a message for any extraterrestrial intelligence that might encounter it. This enchanting artifact, officially called the Voyager Interstellar Record, may be the last vestige of our civilization after we are gone forever.
Curated by a committee led by Carl Sagan, the Golden Record tells a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth’s greatest music from myriad peoples and eras, from Bach and Beethoven to Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, Benin percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. Natural sounds—birds, a train, a baby’s cry, a kiss—are collaged into a lovely audio poem called "Sounds of Earth." There are spoken greetings in dozens of human languages—and one whale language—and more than 100 images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are.
Two years ago, my friends Timothy Daly, Lawrence Azerrad, and I released the Voyager Record to the public on vinyl for the first time as a lavish box set. Our project's resonance with the public, and the Grammy that we were honored to receive for it, are really a testament to the majesty of the original record and the entire Voyager mission. As the original Golden Record's producer, Timothy Ferris, wrote in the liner notes for our box set, the Voyagers are on a journey not just through space but also through time. Read the rest
Stephen Canfield and his colleagues at WeTransfer curated a stunning online experience inspired by the Voyager Golden Record, the iconic message for extraterrestrials launched into space on a phonograph record 40 years ago. My friends Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad and I co-produced the first ever vinyl release of the Voyager Record this year and we were honored to help with WeTransfer's effort, titled A Message from Earth.
A Message To Earth includes newly-commissioned images, art, sound, and words from the likes of Gilles Peterson, Wanda Díaz Merced, Aspen Matis, S U R V I V E, Lawrence Krauss, Fatima Al Qadiri, and Oneohtrix Point Never. It's a beautiful, non-linear exhibition of creative work that embodies the sense of hope, optimism, and goodwill instilled by the original Voyager Record.
The exhibition's intention is to relay a message of goodwill and encourage further exploration while raising awareness and funding for Astronomers without Borders, the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University, and the SETI Institute. WeTransfer is providing $10,000 grants to each institution to initiate public donations, and the project will be commemorated in a $15 limited edition zine with 100% of generated revenues going to the non-profits above.
Here are the contents of A Message From Earth:
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Preface: A comic of illustrations by Sophy Hollington telling the story and brief history of the original Golden Record.
1. Greetings: Wanda Díaz Merced, a blind astronomer who uses sonification to study interstellar events, presents a study of stars as heard on earth - with a selection of images curated by NASA's Rebecca Roth.
Boing Boing editor and founding partner David Pescovitz, with colleagues Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad, was nominated this week to receive a Grammy Award. It's for their work on reissuing the legendary Golden Record that accompanied the Voyager probe into space, which turned into one of 2016's blockbuster Kickstarter campaigns and can now be ordered directly from Ozma records.
They're competing in the Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package category, against Tim Breen, Tom Hingston and other art directors.
What's on the Golden Record? 120 images, a "sound poem" of Earth, greetings in many languages, and a heavenly playlist:
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1. Greeting from Kurt Waldheim, Secretary-General of the United Nations
2. Greetings in 55 Languages
3. United Nations Greetings/Whale Songs
4. The Sounds of Earth
5. Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047: I. Allegro (Johann Sebastian Bach) - Munich Bach Orchestra/Karl Richter
6. Ketawang: Puspåwårnå (Kinds of Flowers) - Pura Paku Alaman Palace Orchestra/K.R.T. Wasitodipuro
7. Cengunmé - Mahi musicians of Benin
8. Alima Song - Mbuti of the Ituri Rainforest
9. Barnumbirr (Morning Star) and Moikoi Song - Tom Djawa, Mudpo, and Waliparu
10. El Cascabel (Lorenzo Barcelata) - Antonio Maciel and Los Aguilillas with Mariachi México de Pepe Villa/Rafael Carrión
11. Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry
12. Mariuamangɨ - Pranis Pandang and Kumbui of the Nyaura Clan
13. Sokaku-Reibo (Depicting the Cranes in Their Nest) - Goro Yamaguchi
14. Partita for Violin Solo No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: III. Gavotte en Rondeau (Johann Sebastian Bach) - Arthur Grumiaux
On Thursday (10/19) and Friday (10/20) this week, Cornell University will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Voyager Golden Record, the gold phonograph records launched into space in 1977 as a message to extraterrestrials. (I co-produced the first vinyl release of the Golden Record with my friends Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad.) All events are free and the public is invited. I hope you can join us! From Cornell University:
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“40 Years of Cosmic Discovery: Celebrating the Voyager Missions and Humanity’s Message to Space” begins with a panel at 8 p.m. Oct. 19 in Bailey Hall, introduced by Cornell Provost Michael Kotlikoff, and featuring people who worked on the mission:
Ann Druyan, Emmy- and Peabody-award winning writer/producer/director and creative director of NASA’s Voyager Interstellar Message; Frank Drake, chairman emeritus, SETI Institute and creator of the Drake Equation;
Steve Squyres, Cornell’s James A. Weeks Professor and principal investigator of the Mars Exploration Rovers mission; Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor of astronomy and director of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute; and Jonathan Lunine, the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science.
One of the handful of Golden Record covers that remain on Earth will be featured in a special exhibit at Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, courtesy of Ann Druyan – it has never before been on public display. The multi-media exhibit will include images and sounds from the Golden Record, as well as the original book by Isaac Newton that was photographed for the Golden Record and a first-edition, signed copy of Carl Sagan’s “Murmurs of Earth.” A copy of the Voyager Golden Record boxed set, newly issued by Ozma Records and donated by producers Timothy Daly and David Pescovitz, will also be on display.
NPR's All Things Considered aired a wonderful piece about the Voyager Golden Record's first-ever vinyl release that I co-produced with my friends Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad. Listen to Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi's report here:
Last week, (the original Voyager Golden Record's producer Timothy) Ferris got his box set in the mail. He says that his friend, the late Carl Sagan, would be delighted by what they made.
"I think this record exceeds Carl's — not only his expectations, but probably his highest hopes for a release of the Voyager record," Ferris says. "I'm glad these folks were finally able to make it happen."
Pescovitz says he's just glad to have returned the Golden Record to the world that created it.
At a moment of political division and media oversaturation, Pescovitz and Daly say they hope that their Golden Record can offer a chance for people to slow down for a moment; to gather around the turntable and bask in the crackly sounds of what Sagan called the "pale blue dot" that we call home.
"As much as it was a gift from humanity to the cosmos, it was really a gift to humanity as well," Pescovitz says. "It's a reminder of what we can accomplish when we're at our best."
"The Voyager Golden Record Finally Finds An Earthly Audience" (NPR)
The Voyager Golden Record is now available for pre-order on vinyl or CD from Ozma Records. Read the rest
I'm honored to be included on a free panel discussion next Thursday, 9/28, at Caltech about the cultural influence of the Voyager Golden Record, the enchanting phonograph record launched into space on the twin Voyager spacecraft 40 years ago. (I co-produced the first vinyl release of the Golden Record with my friends Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad.) I'm incredibly excited to share the stage with the following inspiring individuals:
• Ann Druyan: Creative director of the Voyager interstellar message; writer, producer, and director of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
• Reggie Watts: Vocal artist, musician, comedian, and technologist
• Lynda Obst: Bestselling author, producer of Interstellar, Contact, Sleepless in Seattle, and many other films
• Ed Stone: Voyager project scientist; David Morrisroe Professor of Physics, and Vice Provost for Special Projects, Caltech
KCRW radio's music director, Jason Bentley, will moderate the discussion. Doors are 6:45pm and while it's free, reservations are required. Contact the Caltech Ticket Office by calling (626) 395-4652 to grab tickets. More details here. I hope to see you there!
Special thanks to Dan Goods of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for organizing this event!
The Voyager Golden Record is now available as a vinyl box set and CD/book package from Ozma Records.
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"In celebration of Voyagers' Interstellar voyage, we've added these Posters and Infographics for you to download, print, and share." Read the rest
Editor's note: Forty years ago today, NASA launched Voyager 1, the second of two spacecraft on a grand tour of the solar system and into the mysteries of interstellar space. Attached to each spacecraft is a Golden Record containing Earth's greatest music, spoken greetings, "Sounds of Earth," and more than 100 images encoded as audio signals, a technological feat at the time. Technical director Frank Drake had always planned to encode the photos in the audio spectrum for the record. The challenge was finding technology capable of the task. While flipping through an electronics catalog, Valentin Boriakoff, Drake’s colleague at the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, stumbled upon Colorado Video, a small television equipment firm in Boulder that had built a unique device for encoding television images as audio signals that could be transmitted over telephone lines. Donating their time and expertise to the project, engineers at Colorado Video projected each Voyager slide onto a television camera lens, generating a signal that their machine converted into several seconds of sound per photo. A diagram on the aluminum cover of the Golden Record explains how to play it and decode the images. Four decades later, Ron Barry followed the instructions.
How I decoded the images on the Voyager Golden Record
The video above is a decoding of more than 100 images that were packed into the audio channels of a record that was placed on each of the Voyager spacecraft. How does one pack data into audio? (Remember modems?) This article doesn’t answer that question directly, but it does attempt to reproduce the efforts an alien would go through to recover those images. Read the rest
Boing Boing editor and partner David Pescovitz has an op-ed up at CNN about the Voyager probe's golden record. Even in the cold and distant darkness of space, this exemplar of human culture plays on.
It's a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth's greatest music from myriad peoples and eras, from Bach and Blind Willie Johnson to Benin percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. Natural sounds — birds, a train, a baby's cry, a kiss — are collaged into a lovely audio poem called "Sounds of Earth." There are spoken greetings in dozens of human languages— and one whale language — and more than 100 images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are. A diagram on the aluminum cover of the record explains how to play it and where it came from.
As an objet d'art and design, the Voyager Record represents deep insights about communication, context, and the power of media. In the realm of science, it raises fundamental questions about our place in the universe.
Pesco helped Kickstart a re-issue of the disc; you can still get in line and pre-order one here. Read the rest
The Atlantic's Marina Koren wrote about the Voyager Golden Record vinyl box set that I co-produced with Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad. From Koren's article, titled "Forty Years Later, the Golden Record Goes Vinyl":
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Even though they had the tapes, Pescovitz and the rest of the team still needed to secure permission to use copyrighted material. Getting the rights to songs from major record labels or images from national publications was easy, since such institutions usually have a process in place. Tracking down the owners of some of the more obscure content, like melodies by indigenous groups, proved more difficult, Pescovitz said. Notes from the time of the record’s original production were sometimes lacking or wrong, and online searches for some of the names listed turned up obituaries instead of contact information. “It came to the point where I was calling Papua New Guinea at 2 o’clock in the morning, and working with amazing ethnomusicologists around the world to try to track down as much information as possible, to find out about who these people were, what the music was, who collected it and when,” Pescovitz said.
The owner of one musical piece featuring panpipes was listed as the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, so Pescovitz called. The staff didn’t know the name of the song or who played it, but a young woman who was at the radio station overheard them talking about it (and told them the music came from her village and her grandfather would know the players.
On August 20 and September 5, 1977, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and into the mysteries of interstellar space. It was an incredibly audacious mission, and it's still going. My friend Timothy Ferris produced the Voyager golden record that's attached to each of the spacecraft and went on to write a dozen enlightening books about science and culture. (Tim also wrote the liner notes for the Voyager Golden Record vinyl box set I co-produced that's now available here.) In the new issue of National Geographic, Tim tells the remarkable story of the Voyager mission and why "it almost didn’t happen." From National Geographic:
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The prospect of a “grand tour” of the outer planets emerged in 1965 from the musings of an aeronautics graduate student named Gary Flandro, then working part-time at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, the world’s preeminent center for interplanetary exploration. At age six, Flandro had been given Wonders of the Heavens, a book that showed the planets lined up like stepping-stones. “I thought about how neat it would be to go all the way through the solar system and pass each one of those outer planets,” he recalled.
Assigned at JPL to envision possible missions beyond Mars, Flandro plotted the future positions of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune with paper and pencil. He found that they would align in such a way that a spacecraft could tap the planets’ orbital momentum to slingshot from one to the next, gaining enough velocity to visit all four planets within 10 or 12 years rather than the decades such a venture would require otherwise.
Forty years ago this month, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and beyond, into the mysteries of interstellar space. Mounted to each spacecraft is a golden phonograph record, a message to introduce our civilization to extraterrestrials, perhaps billions of years from now. The Voyager Golden Record tells a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science. The Voyager Golden Record is a gift from humanity to the cosmos, but it’s also a gift to humanity. It lies at the intersection of science and art to spark the imagination, and delivers a dose of hope that so many of us are jonesing for these days. Two years ago, my friends Timothy Daly, Lawrence Azerrad, and I embarked on a long journey to release the Voyager Golden Record as a box set of vinyl LPs so those on Earth can hear it as it was meant to be played. We were humbled by the incredible support our project received. (You can read about our experience in the project updates here.)
Ten months after our Kickstarter ended, the enthusiasm and excitement around the Voyager anniversary and the golden record continues to increase. We feel very fortunate that the story of this historical artifact resonates with so many people! As promised, we will never reproduce the Kickstarter "40th Anniversary Edition" box set again. Our Kickstarter backers took the journey with us and we are deeply grateful. However, for those who were not able to participate in the Kickstarter, we have decided to repress the Voyager Golden Record in a different edition than the one our Kickstarter backers will receive. Read the rest
An update on the Voyager exploration program of Saturn from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Read the rest
tracks humanity's vicarious voyage into the outer reaches of the solar system—and the strange, indefinite transition to the place beyond it.