NASA’s Voyager Golden Record Master Recording Up for Auction

Sotheby’s recently announced that they will be offering the world a chance to own a piece of space exploration history: Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s personal copy of the Voyager Golden Record.

This remarkable audio-visual time capsule, developed by NASA and attached to Voyager 1 and 2, was designed to communicate the diversity of life and culture on Earth to potential extraterrestrial civilizations.

NASA's Voyager Golden Record Master Recording Up for Auction

It contains greetings in 59 human languages, 115 images, the sounds of Earth (including the enchanting call of humpback whales), and 27 musical pieces from various world traditions. The Voyager probes, now the farthest human-made objects from Earth, have ventured into interstellar space, revealing the true shape of our solar system as it traverses the Milky Way galaxy.

A Monumental Undertaking in Space Exploration

Back in the 1970s, NASA embarked on a groundbreaking project that set new standards for space exploration. The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 missions were the first-ever interstellar probes, venturing further from Earth than any previous spacecraft. While earlier missions, like the Mariner program, had explored the inner Solar System, including Venus, Mars, and Mercury, the Voyager probes aimed to explore the outer solar system.

NASA's Voyager Golden Record Master Recording Up for Auction

These intrepid explorers provided humanity with the first close-up views of distant worlds, unveiling secrets like numerous moons, extraterrestrial volcanoes, and hidden underground oceans. After receiving a gravitational boost from Jupiter, they were catapulted out of the solar system in different directions, destined to journey through the Milky Way for billions of years. Astonishingly, with computing power far inferior to today’s smartphones and just as much energy as a toaster, these probes continue to respond to commands and communicate with us, even after 46 years since their launch.

The Birth of the Voyager Golden Record

As part of the Voyager mission, Cornell University astronomy professors Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, along with Linda Salzman Sagan, were entrusted by NASA to create a unique and complex message. They designed a 30cm analogue record, the very first of its kind, to be sent beyond our Solar System. This legendary record, the Voyager Golden Record, would serve as a representation of humanity and Earth to any potential extraterrestrial beings.

Leading the committee was Ann Druyan, who worked alongside her future husband, Carl Sagan, and four other colleagues. Together, they designed a mesmerizing sound essay, narrating the history of Earth through captivating sounds. From the bustling noises of a rainforest teeming with life to a mother’s tender words to her newborn, from brain waves and heartbeats of a person in love to the distant pulsar’s enigmatic hum, the record portrayed Earth’s rich tapestry.

NASA's Voyager Golden Record Master Recording Up for Auction

To add to the grandeur, the musical selections ranged from classical compositions by Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart to iconic pieces like Chuck Berry’sJohnny B. Goode” and Senegalese percussion. Japanese shakuhachi, Peruvian wedding songs, Georgian Men’s chorus, Navajo night chants, and Indian vocal ragas also found their way into this cosmic symphony. The music was meticulously chosen to provide a profound insight into our species and its artistic expression.

The Golden Record’s Timeless Beauty

Crafted in copper and plated with gold, only eight copies of the Voyager Golden Record were created, including the two placed on the spacecraft. Its golden-tinted aluminium cover featured scientific hieroglyphics, revealing our solar system’s location in relation to nearby pulsars and providing instructions on how to play the record.

The cover also contained an ultra-pure sample of uranium-238, effectively serving as a clock with a half-life of 4.468 billion years. A hand-carved inscription, “To the makers of music – all worlds, all times,” added a personal touch to this extraordinary creation, making it the sole example of human handwriting to embark on the Voyager journey.

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Auction

The upcoming auction of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s personal copy of the Voyager Golden Record marks a historic moment in the realm of space exploration and human civilization. The auction offers a rare opportunity for collectors and space enthusiasts to own a piece of the cosmos—a tangible link to the Voyager missions and the audacious vision of Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan. With an estimated value of $400,000 – $600,000, this unique artefact represents the pinnacle of human ingenuity, curiosity, and our unwavering fascination with the unknown depths of the universe.

NASA's Voyager Golden Record Master Recording Up for Auction

Conclusion

The Voyager Golden Record stands as an unparalleled testament to the boundless spirit of exploration that defines humanity. It symbolizes our profound optimism, humility, and curiosity when confronted with the vastness of the cosmos. Created by visionaries Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, this extraordinary record continues to sail among the stars, carrying a timeless message of our existence and culture, waiting for the day when it may encounter another civilization from the far reaches of the Milky Way. As it goes up for auction, it beckons us to reflect on the wonders of space, the marvels of human achievement, and the infinite possibilities that await us beyond the pale blue dot we call home.

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