Thursday, 23 December 2010
Space is the Place
The Pioneer Plaque was placed aboard the Pioneer 10 space probe launched in 1972. It was intended to give extra-terrestrials an idea of what mankind looks like and the position of the Earth in space. The nude figures upset some of the more conservative types at NASA but its designer, the mighty Carl Sagan, managed to get it approved a few days prior to launch.
The Voyager Golden Record is carried aboard the two Voyager space probes launched in 1977. It too has diagrammatic information but no nudity to upset the cosmos. The disc contains a variety of sounds, languages and music for alien intelligences to puzzle over. The 'Sounds of the Earth' section is presumably NASA's version of BBC Sound Effects recordings, including Wild Dog, The First Tools and Horse & Cart for example. Of the international musical selections America is represented by Louis Armstrong and Chuck Berry, whereas Britain has Anthony Holborne's "The Faerie Round" from Pavans, Galliards, Almains and Other Short Aeirs, performed by David Munrow and the Early Music Consort. Space Rock it ain't.
In four billion years when our sun turns supernova and destroys the Earth and solar system, the Pioneer and Voyager probes will hopefully still be journeying through the cosmos. Proof, if it were needed, that the 1970s will outlive not just ourselves, but the entire planet.