After recently celebrating 30 years of exploring our Galaxy, the Voyager space probe is about to leave our solar system. In 1977 NASA launched 2 probes, Voyager 1 & 2, towards the end of our solar system. Sometime in the next five years, those probes will break through the never-before-breached-by-man cosmic barrier, and continue on their trajectory towards the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.
The real tragedy here is that the Voyager probes both only have about ten years of life left in them. Soon, they’ll have sent us all they can and will continue on as silent ambassadors for mankind.
So Far So Good.
At this point the Voyagers have reached the edge of our solar system, and have encountered some pretty weird stuff. The most recent absurdity is the “Cosmic Bubble”. The solar system that we live in is held together by the magnetic field of our local star, the Sun. At the edge of this heliosphere, where Voyager 1 & 2 are currently, is a barrier between us and the violent solar winds of interstellar space.
Basically, these gigantic cosmic bubbles protect our little solar system and keep the bits from flying off into oblivion. It also helps lend to the conspiracy theory that were really just stuck in a little oval solar system with no way out … but that’s a story for another time (perhaps in five years when we see if Voyager can penetrate the barrier and break free).
How convenient that we will have lost the signal by then!
The Golden Record
Both Voyager probes, like the Pioneer probes before them, contain gold records. These records contain a sampling of life here on earth. Selected by a committee of intellectuals, the records contain 116 images, as well as sounds natural to earth. Sounds like thunder, and the ocean, as well as bird and whale songs.
The records also contain greetings from earth in 55 different languages, a message from then president Jimmy Carter, and music from Beethoven, Mozart, and even Chuck Berry. The basics of our civilization sent off just in case the probes happen upon intelligent life out there in the cosmos.
Do Aliens Do Analog?
Not to leave these things to chance, the geniuses over at NASA put serious thought into the construction of the Golden Record. Including binary arithmetic and picture directions (which likely inspired the folks at IKEA when they created their assembly directions… ) on how to play the record.
They even set the playback speed to 0.70 billions of a second, which is the fundamental transition of the hydrogen atom – one of the most common elements in the cosmos. One should also note that the records aren’t solid gold, they’re gold plated copper …. which means that the aliens will get an even better picture of how humans really are (hint hint, wink wink).
“Send more Chuck Berry”
Voyager has also made it’s way into popular culture. From X-Files, to the Transformers cartoons, to the greatest franchise ever Star Trek. While Star Trek: The Motion Picture may have displeased enthusiasts, it sits high on the list of greatest SciFi films ever made.
The plot is simple: the crew of the Enterprise rushes out into the galaxy to save earth from an approaching ship named V’Ger which is destroying everything in its path. It turns out V’Ger is Voyager, returning from hundreds of years exploring the galaxy after being deemed lost, in search of the creator. Captain Kirk and his fellow shipmates save the day of course, but it’s the concept that rings all to true.
What would happen if hundreds of years from now these probes, whose source of power will die and whom we’ll lose communication with, somehow become sentient and return in search of the being who hurtled them out into the universe to begin with? Or, what would happen if they actually do bump into some galaxy trotting aliens somewhere and those aliens return to say “Hi.”?
Those aliens can either be like Vulcans, and be the best thing that ever stopped in on Earth to say wassup, or they can be like Stephen Hawking says and Aliens coming to Earth will have the same effect as Columbus landing in America. We all know how that turned out for the indigenous people.