In 1977, the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes were both flung into the vast cosmic abyss, each with a “Golden Record” phonograph onboard. The idea was to send a kind of message in a bottle to the universe that captured the essence of humanity and Earth’s story through music, sounds, and images.
While those 12-inch gold-plated discs are now some 20 billion kilometers (13 billion miles) away, it’s been nearly impossible to get copies of the records back home on Earth.
But soon, you’ll be able to get your hands on your own copy of the record thanks to a Kickstarter project that is funding a re-issue of the vinyl, just in time for Voyager’s 40th anniversary next year.
The three gold-colored vinyl LPs will feature two hours of audio of all the recordings on the original Voyager Golden Record, all packaged in a modern revamp of the original artwork. The full record box-set is expected to go on sale for around $98 in August 2017. You'll also be able to digitally download the whole thing in MP3 or FLAC formats for $25.
Ozma Records, the brains behind the Kickstarter campaign, has already smashed their $198,000 goal (by $450,000 at last count) and recently announced they will donate 20 percent of net proceeds to the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University.
Carl Sagan chaired a committee to pick and choose the contents of the record for NASA. After much debate and disagreement, they settled on a final set list that included a selection from an eclectic mix of cultures.
The interstellar message includes a Navajo Indian Night Chant, Beethoven symphonies, a Senegalese percussion performance, "Melancholy Blues" performed by Louis Armstrong, Mozart, Bach, "Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry, a bagpipe song from Azerbaijan SSR, a Peruvian wedding song, and much more. You can see the full list of the songs here.
Along with music, it also contains spoken greetings in 55 human languages and a compilation of “Sounds of Earth” audio clips, including the sound of a Saturn V rocket lifting off, animals, the sea, thunder, morse code, a kiss, a bus, a heartbeat, and crackling fire.
The Golden Record also features 115 images of Earth, our Solar System, life, biological anatomy, diagrams of mathematical interest and demonstrations of humanity’s scientific progress. The original records had these images encoded in analog form, but the Ozma Records re-issue will feature the images in an accompanying hardbound book.
As Carl Sagan said in his book Pale Blue Dot: “Perhaps the records will never be intercepted. Perhaps no one in five billion years will ever come upon them. Five billion years is a long time. In five billion years, all human beings will have become extinct or evolved into other beings, none of our artifacts will have survived on Earth, the continents will have become unrecognizably altered or destroyed, and the evolution of the Sun will have burned the Earth to a crisp or reduced it to a whirl of atoms.
“Far from home, untouched by these remote events, the Voyagers, bearing the memories of a world that is no more, will fly on.”
That may very well be true – and a little on the bleak side. But hey, in the meantime, at least we can now all enjoy our mighty fine musical legacy to the cosmos.