NASA Record Sent To Aliens Now On SoundCloud


Carl Sagan called the project a “bottle in the cosmic ocean.”Launched in 1977, the two Voyager spacecrafts were each loaded with a golden phonograph record documenting life on Earth should either probe ever contact aliens.

In a paper published in the May issue of the journal Astrobiology, astronomers Adam Frank and Woodruff Sullivan suggest that a probability for an alien civilizations to have existed at some point in time is highly probable. According to their findings, even if you consider that only one civilization might form out of every ten billion planets, a trillion civilizations still would have appeared over the course of cosmic history.

In an article for the New York Times Adam Frank goes on to say:

“In other words, given what we now know about the number and orbital positions of the galaxy’s planets, the degree of pessimism required to doubt the existence, at some point in time, of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization borders on the irrational.”

The Voyager spacecrafts mission was devised to explore Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune before floating out of our solar system into interstellar space, hurtling away from the sun at 17 kilometres a second. Famous space guy Carl Sagan called the project a “bottle in the cosmic ocean.” Now, for your enjoyment, NASA has uploaded their message to SoundCloud.

The Voyager Golden Records are phonograph records that contain sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or for future humans, who may find them. Neither Voyager spacecraft is heading toward any particular star, but Voyager 1 will pass within 1.6 light-years of the star Gliese 445, currently in the constellation Camelopardalis, in about 40,000 years.

The recordings contain greetings in 55 languages, from Akkadian to Wu, as well as an assortment of sounds representative of life on earth, like a heartbeat, a mother kissing her child and the whistle of a train. The golden records also carry 90 minutes of music (not upped to SoundCloud, presumably for copyright reasons), including standards like Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, First Movement. 

Carl Sagan noted that “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”Thus the record is best seen as a time capsule.

Below is the example of what we think we sound like. I thought there’d be a lot more arguing:


Both craft carry with them a 12-inch golden phonograph record that contains pictures and sounds of Earth along with symbolic directions on the cover for playing the record and data detailing the location of our planet.The record is intended as a combination of a time capsule and an interstellar message to any civilization, alien or far-future human, that may recover either of the Voyagers. The contents of this record were selected by a committee that included Timothy Ferris and was chaired by Carl Sagan.

The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University. The selection of content for the record took almost a year. Sagan and his associates assembled 116 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind, thunder and animals (including the songs of birds and whales). To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, spoken greetings in 55 ancient and modern languages, and printed messages from U.S. president Jimmy Carter and U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim. The record also includes the inspirational message Per aspera ad astra in Morse code.

The collection of images includes many photographs and diagrams both in black and white, and color. The first images are of scientific interest, showing mathematical and physical quantities, the Solar System and its planets, DNA, and human anatomy and reproduction. Care was taken to include not only pictures of humanity, but also some of animals, insects, plants and landscapes. Images of humanity depict a broad range of cultures. These images show food, architecture, and humans in portraits as well as going about their day-to-day lives. Many pictures are annotated with one or more indications of scales of time, size, or mass. Some images contain indications of chemical composition. All measures used on the pictures are defined in the first few images using physical references that are likely to be consistent anywhere in the universe.

The Golden Record also carries an hour long recording of the brainwaves of Ann Druyan. During the recording of the brainwaves, Druyan thought of many topics, including Earth’s history, civilizations and the problems they face, and what it was like to fall in love.

The record is constructed of gold-plated copper. The record’s cover is aluminum 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. It is possible (e.g. via mass-spectrometry) that a civilization that encounters the record will be able to use the ratio of remaining uranium to the other elements to determine the age of the record.

The records also had the inscription “To the makers of music – all worlds, all times” hand-etched on its surface. The inscription was located in the “takeout grooves”, an area of the record between the label and playable surface. Since this was not in the original specifications, the record was initially rejected, to be replaced with a blank disc. Sagan later convinced the administrator to include the record as is

After NASA had received criticism over the nudity on the Pioneer plaque (line drawings of a naked man and woman), the agency chose not to allow Sagan and his colleagues to include a photograph of a nude man and woman on the record. Instead, only a silhouette of the couple was included. However, the record does contain “Diagram of vertebrate evolution”, by Jon Lomberg, with drawings of an anatomically correct naked male and naked female, showing external organs.The pulsar map and hydrogen molecule diagram are shared in common with the Pioneer plaque.The 116 images are encoded in analogue form and composed of 512 vertical lines. The remainder of the record is audio, designed to be played at 16⅔ revolutions per minute.Carl Sagan suggested that The Beatles song “Here Comes the Sun” be included on the record, but the record company EMI that held the copyrights to the song, declined due to copyright concerns.

The Voyager program is a continuing American scientific program that employs two robotic probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, to study the outer Solar System. They were launched in 1977 to take advantage of a favorable alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, and are now exploring the outer boundary of the heliosphere currently in interstellar space. Although their original mission was to study only the planetary systems of Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager 2 continued on to Uranus and Neptune, and both Voyagers are now tasked with exploring interstellar space. Their mission has been extended three times, and both probes continue to collect and relay useful scientific data. Both Uranus and Neptune have not been visited by any other probe other than Voyager 2.

On August 25, 2012, data from Voyager 1 indicated that it had become the first human-made object to enter interstellar space, traveling “further than anyone, or anything, in history”.As of 2013, Voyager 1 was moving with a velocity of 17 kilometers per second (11 mi/s) relative to the Sun. Voyager 2 is expected to enter interstellar space by 2016, and its plasma spectrometer should provide the first direct measurements of the density and temperature of the interstellar plasma.

Data and photographs collected by the Voyagers’ cameras, magnetometers, and other instruments revealed previously unknown details about each of the giant planets and their moons. Close-up images from the spacecraft charted Jupiter’s complex cloud forms, winds, and storm systems and discovered volcanic activity on its moon Io. Saturn’s rings were found to have enigmatic braids, kinks, and spokes and to be accompanied by a myriad of “ringlets.” At Uranus Voyager 2 discovered a substantial magnetic field around the planet and 10 additional moons. Its flyby of Neptune uncovered three complete rings and six hitherto unknown moons as well as a planetary magnetic field and complex, widely distributed auroras. Voyager 2 is still the only spacecraft to have visited the ice giants.


The golden record’s location on Voyager (middle-bottom-left)

Among scientists, the probability of the existence of an alien society with which we might make contact is discussed in terms of something called the Drake equation. In 1961, the National Academy of Sciences asked the astronomer Frank Drake to host a scientific meeting on the possibilities of “interstellar communication.” Since the odds of contact with alien life depended on how many advanced extraterrestrial civilizations existed in the galaxy, Drake identified seven factors on which that number would depend, and incorporated them into an equation.

The first factor was the number of stars born each year. The second was the fraction of stars that had planets. After that came the number of planets per star that traveled in orbits in the right locations for life to form (assuming life requires liquid water). The next factor was the fraction of such planets where life actually got started. Then came factors for the fraction of life-bearing planets on which intelligence and advanced civilizations (meaning radio signal-emitting) evolved. The final factor was the average lifetime of a technological civilization.

Drake’s equation was not like Einstein’s E=mc2. It was not a statement of a universal law. It was a mechanism for fostering organized discussion, a way of understanding what we needed to know to answer the question about alien civilizations. In 1961, only the first factor — the number of stars born each year — was understood. And that level of ignorance remained until very recently.

But our new planetary knowledge has removed some of the uncertainty from this debate. Three of the seven terms in Drake’s equation are now known. We know the number of stars born each year. We know that the percentage of stars hosting planets is about 100. And we also know that about 20 to 25 percent of those planets are in the right place for life to form. This puts us in a position, for the first time, to say something definitive about extraterrestrial civilizations — if we ask the right question.

In their recent paper, Professor Sullivan and Adam Frank  did this by shifting the focus of Drake’s equation. Instead of asking how many civilizations currently exist, they asked what the probability is that ours is the only technological civilization that has ever appeared. By asking this question, they could bypass the factor about the average lifetime of a civilization. This left them with only three unknown factors, which were combined into one “biotechnical” probability: the likelihood of the creation of life, intelligent life and technological capacity.




About Art Selectronic

Art Selectronic is an artist an artist-led initiative, that supports grass-roots contemporary art that remains unswayed by fashion, trends or the whims of government funding. The project involves ongoing research into the placing of contemporary art, it’s audiences and it’s relationship to the everyday. We place great emphasis on context. Our mission is to support new works of contemporary art and foster an audience from a wide range of backgrounds.
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