Voyager: The Golden Record

It’s the 1970s, and we’re about to send two spacecraft (Voyager 1 & 2) into space. These two spacecraft will eventually leave our solar system and become the most distant man-made objects…ever. How can we leave our mark on them in the case that other spacefarers find them in the distant future?

The Golden Record.

We placed an ambitious message aboard Voyager 1 and 2, a kind of time capsule, intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials. The Voyager message is carried by a phonograph record, a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.

The Golden Record Cover

The outward facing cover of the golden record carries instructions in case it is ever found. Detailing to its discoverers how to decipher its meaning.

In the upper left-hand corner is an easily recognized drawing of the phonograph record and the stylus carried with it. The stylus is in the correct position to play the record from the beginning. Written around it in binary arithmetic is the correct time of one rotation of the record. The drawing indicates that the record should be played from the outside in.

The information in the upper right-hand portion of the cover is designed to show how the pictures contained on the record are to be constructed from the recorded signals. The top drawing shows the typical signal that occurs at the start of the picture. The picture is made from this signal, which traces the picture as a series of vertical lines, similar to ordinary television. Immediately below shows how these lines are to be drawn vertically, with staggered “interlace” to give the correct picture rendition. Below that is a drawing of an entire picture raster, showing that there are 52 vertical lines in a complete picture.

Immediately below this is a replica of the first picture on the record to permit the recipients to verify that they are decoding the signals correctly. A circle was used in this picture to ensure that the recipients use the correct ratio of horizontal to vertical height in picture reconstruction.

The drawing in the lower left-hand corner of the cover is the pulsar map previously sent as part of the plaques on Pioneers 10 and 11. It shows the location of the solar system with respect to 14 pulsars, whose precise periods are given.

The drawing containing two circles in the lower right-hand corner is a drawing of the hydrogen atom in its two lowest states, with a connecting line and digit 1 to indicate that the time interval associated with the transition from one state to the other is to be used as the fundamental time scale, both for the time given on the cover and in the decoded pictures.

The Contents

The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University and his associates. 

They 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.

Listen to some of the sounds of the Golden Record on our Soundcloud page:

Songs from Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony are included on the golden record. For a complete list of songs, visit: https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/golden-record/whats-on-the-record/music/

The 115 images included on the record, encoded in analog form, range from mathematical definitions to humans from around the globe. See the images here: https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/golden-record/whats-on-the-record/images/

Making the Golden Record

Many people were instrumental in the design, development and manufacturing of the golden record. 

Blank records were provided by the Pyral S.A. of Creteil, France. CBS Records contracted the JVC Cutting Center in Boulder, CO to cut the lacquer masters which were then sent to the James G. Lee Record Processing center in Gardena, CA to cut and gold plate eight Voyager records.

The record is constructed of gold-plated copper and is 12 inches in diameter. The record’s cover is aluminum and electroplated upon it is an ultra-pure sample of the isotope uranium-238. Uranium-238 has a half-life of 4.468 billion years.

Learn more about the golden record HERE.

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As summer comes to an end, think of this dragonfly.
It lived underwater for the last two to three years in a completely different form. This year, it crawled out of my pond, shed its skin, transformed, let the sun harden its new wings and soared with the grace of a ballet dancer into the sky.
Hopefully, sometime this summer, it laid its eggs back into the pond it was born in. As the weather cools it begins its farewell flights around my backyard.
Reborn, rejoice, renew.


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