In 1977, the United States, acting on behalf of the Planet Earth, launched two deep-space probes a few weeks apart, Voyager 1 and 2, tiny druplets expelled from the complex raspberry of our civilization. They flew by Jupiter and Saturn, sending incredible pictures and crucial revelations about the weather, magnetic fields, rings and moons of the two gas giants.
As I type this, Voyager 1—which was actually launched after Voyager 2—is flying through space and is roughly 13 billion miles away from the Sun. As of August 25, 2012, it was the first Earth spacecraft to cross out of the solar system and into interstellar space. Voyager 2 hasn’t gone quite that far, but it will.
Both of these spacecraft carry something that isn’t in the mission statement of either: A Golden Record. More specifically, a 12-inch LP fashioned from gold-plated copper and mounted to the side of each Voyager—a still life of Earth conveyed in words, music, and images, coded as sound. Also included are instructions for playback—left for any alien civilization who might run across this thing at any point in the deep future.
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