Voyager I Bears a “Story of Our World to Extraterrestrials”

Today’s big story involves Voyager I’s arrival at the final frontier. But the following item in the CNN account, flagged by my good friend PJ Aspuria, is even more intriguing to me:

NASA: Voyager I Enters Solar System’s Final Frontier

Golden record: Should they encounter any form of life, the Voyager probes carry a greeting. The message comes via a phonograph record — a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk with sounds and images showing the diversity of life and culture on Earth.

OTB’s space-geek readers probably know about the Golden Record. Indeed, given that its official page has been up since January 2003, even casual NASA followers likely have some idea of its existence. But it’s all new to me, and I find it utterly fascinating.

For instance, the Golden Record, created by Carl Sagan (of course), contains greetings in 55 different languages. I can understand the inclusion of the ten most widely used in the world, but why is Ukrainian selected? On a global scale, it doesn’t seem to be a particularly noteworthy language. What am I overlooking?

As for the photograph index, it’s interesting that “Man from Guatemala” is singled out. But, again, why do the Guatemalans get to represent contemporary Latin America? On a more basic level, I suppose extraterrestrials will be happy to learn about human reproductive capacities, as well as the act of breastfeeding.

Obviously, my questions are on the naive side. I’m sure that I’m revealing a lot more ignorance than I probably should in a public forum. But a number of selections just strikes me as a bit random. Then again, perhaps that’s exactly the point: to show earthly living in its true form, maybe we need to have seemingly inexplicable diversity.

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Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


  1. John Burgess says:

    Diversity is exactly the point. I recall when the disk was first being compiled (yeah, I’m that old), that they realized that it could not represent the entirety of earth or mankind and any of it its subrubrics. Therefore, a sort-of random selection of the various “types” had to be used.

    You could argue, “Why Akkadian and Sumerian, but no Celtic?” as fruitfully.

    Maybe they should have held up launching Voyager until they had higher-density recording materials?

  2. Robin Roberts says:

    I think Ukrainian was selected because the Ukraine was an original member of the United Nations. The Soviet Union negotiated a deal during the original negotiations that it would have not one but three seats in the General Assembly, one each for the Belarus, the Russian Federation and the Ukraine.

  3. Robert,

    I think that

    I’m sure that I’m revealing a lot more ignorance than I probably should in a public forum. But…

    is pretty much the Blogger’s Credo, yes?