It’s now easier than ever to enjoy the audio summary of life on Earth that NASA sent out into interstellar space.
The Golden Record is a funny thing. Sent off with the Voyager spacecraft in 1977, the phonograph recording (which is actually on multiple records) is meant to be a hodgepodge sampling of what life is like on Earth. Since Voyager is hurtling deeper and deeper into interstellar space, the obvious hope is that it will encounter some kind of intelligent life one day — or at least come close enough to a planet harboring life to pique their curiosity.
“The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space,” famed astrophysicistCarl Sagan said at the time. “But the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”
Now NASA has posted the recordings to the agency’s official Soundcloud account, adding to a growing collection of awe-inspiring tracks that include historical goodies — like soundbites from the Apollo missions — and freaky space sounds created by turning light and radio waves picked up by probes into audio tracks.
It’s highly unlikely that the records themselves will ever be played: That would require intelligent life to have evolved close enough to us in time and space for the Voyager to reach them and be intercepted. It would also require those lifeforms to be similar enough to us to know what to do with a phonograph record, which would be pretty wild. Like…really wild. As it happens, the radio drama series “The Truth” has an episode centering on just that scenario:
So assuming Voyager doesn’t careen right into the path of intelligent aliens who can hear sound the way we can and are already able to listen to phonograph records — or, more likely, willing to spend years pouring resources into deciphering what the heck we sent them — the records are really more for our benefit than for anyone else’s. And it’s fascinating to hear how NASA chose to represent the Earth in sound waves.