Launched in 1977, Voyager II is an amazing satellite that has provided NASA scientists with some of the most incredible information and photos of our solar system, but there is also a wealth of other information that is meant for whoever or whatever is out there in the deepest reaches of space. This includes music, language, photos and more that depicts life here on our little blue ball, the third rock from our sun, planet Earth, and it's all contained on a record made of gold, aka, The Voyager Golden Record.
The material for the record was compiled by a committee of people led by the famous astronomer Carl Sagan. Their goal was to put together a record that summed up as best they could life here on Earth. They included people saying "hello" in over 50 languages and the sound of laughter (Sagan himself providing that sound). They added some sounds of nature, like the songs of the Humpback Whale and different birds chirping. There were sounds of the surf lapping upon the beach and the wind blowing. At the beginning of the record is a welcome message from then-President Jimmy Carter and then-General Secretary of the United Nations Kurt Waldheim. There are also 115 photographs depicting all manner of life on our "pale blue dot, " as Sagan put it, describing the way our home would appear to aliens thousands of light years away. The most interesting part of the record though is the music they included.
The music included on the record spans centuries and genres, from Azerbaijani folk music to Mozart to Chuck Berry. Have a listen to some of the songs that Sagan and his friend thought best summed up.
First up is Bach's Brandenberg Concerto #2 in F
Mozart's "Queen of the Night" as performed by the incredible soprano, Edda Moser
A piece from Igor Stravinsky's controversial ballet "The Rite Of Spring" is included
The American blues were represented by Blind Willie Johnson with his haunting song "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground"
And of course, there had to be some Rock n Roll with Chuck Berry's classic "Johnny B. Goode"
Of all the wonderful scientific information and beautiful photos that the Voyager mission has provided us, it is still romantic to think that the Golden Record is the most intriguing part of the whole thing. There is a very real possibility that the first impression an extraterrestrial may have of humankind is through this thoughtfully put together collection; a summary of life on earth over the centuries. It might not be found for thousands of years, long after the satellite loses power, shuts down and blissfully floats through space until it's discovered. There is truly something magical about that. If and when ETs do hear it, they will probably echo what Steve Martin said on Saturday Night Life in 1978, shortly after the launch of Voyager II. In a sketch where Martin plays a psychic trying to predict the future, he anticipates that the record will be found by aliens and after hearing the record, they will respond with "Send more Chuck Berry." Isn't that how we would all reply?
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