Over forty years ago, a group of scientists, artists and writers gathered in New York to work on the most important compilation ever conceived. Not from one person to another; it was from Earth to the Cosmos.
In 1977 NASA sent Voyager 1 and 2 on a Grand Tour of the outer planets, a 40’000 year journey to explore Jupiter and Saturn. NASA felt compelled to include a message for any being that may come across the Voyager’s and so commissioned astronomer and Cornell University professor Carl Sagan (and a small team) to create a message of peace to whomever should listen, could this be the best ever intergalactic mix tape?
And so, the Golden Voyager Record was born…A 12” inch gold-plated copper disc, the worlds (and universe’s) rarest and probably the most expensive record.
A 90-minute playlist of music from across the globe, a sound essay of life on Earth, spoken greetings in multiple languages and more than 100 photographs and diagrams.
What made the final cut?
It contains spoken greetings beginning with Akkadian, which was spoken in Sumer about six thousand years ago, and ending with Wu, a modern Chinese dialect, a total of 55 dialects.
Earth sounds were included, from footsteps, laughter and heart beats to birds, hyenas and volcanoes.
Then an eclectic 90 minute music selection of jazz, blues, Bulgarian and Azerbaijani folk music, Chinese zither, electronic compositions by Laurie Spiegel, and more. Rock ‘n’ roll from Chuck Berry (‘Johnny B Goode’) was included too, at Druyan’s insistence. According to Ferris, Carl Sagan had to warm up to the idea of including Chuck Berry’s 1958 hit “Johnny B. Goode” on the record, but once he did, he defended it against others’ objections. Folklorist Alan Lomax was against it, arguing that rock music was adolescent.
“And Carl’s brilliant response was, ‘There are a lot of adolescents on the planet,’” recalls Ferris.
Finally, the record also included message of peace from US president Jimmy Carter, facts, figures and dimensions, all encased in a golden box.
“This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours”.
What is it made of?
The record is constructed of gold-plated copper and is 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter. The record’s cover is aluminium 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. Each record is encased in a protective aluminium jacket, together with a cartridge and a needle. Instructions, in symbolic language, explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played. The 115 images are encoded in analogue form.
With an inscription reading “To the makers of music – all worlds, all times” hand-etched on its surface
And incredibly and most importantly, this golden record may be the only remaining evidence of humanity. To prove not only there was life on earth but to capture the essence of what it means to be human.
To us this makes the most valuable record in the entire universe and beyond!
The story of these unique records is also the subject of Jonathan Scott’s book The Vinyl Frontier.
Full info on the Golden Voyager can be found here: https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/golden-record/
A lovely video overview of the story on YouTube: