The Golden Records were carefully designed to reach extraterrestrials, and now they're within reach of the public.
The Golden Records were carefully designed to reach extraterrestrials, and now they're within reach of the public.
Image from NASA

NASA's Voyager Golden Record Now Available to the Public

It's been 30 years since NASA scientists launched the famed Golden Records — described by NASA as a mixed tape "intended to communicate the story of our world to extraterrestrials" — on Voyager spacecrafts 1 and 2, and while aliens have had the opportunity to give the records a listen as the spacecrafts have drifted deeper into space over the years, the public has never had the chance to own these records, until now.

The contents of the records were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by famed physicist Carl Sagan and the records were intended to give extraterrestrials an idea of what life on Earth means. To accomplish this, the record includes the sound of wind, rain, whales, birds, the brain waves of a woman falling in love (that of Sagan's not-yet-but-soon-to-be-second-wife Ann Druyan, a writer who met Sagan while working on this project) and spoken greetings from Earth in 55 languages.

“The chances of aliens finding the Voyagers in the vast emptiness of space are small — some say infinitesimal — but we took our jobs seriously,” Druyan said, according to NASA. “From the moment when [Sagan] first broached the project to Tim Ferris and me, it felt mythic.”

They chose to use records as their format because eight-track tapes would degrade in space due to radiation, opting for a copper record dipped in gold because it would hold up against both the radiation and the extreme temperatures of space.

The records also offer an incredible selection of music from all over the world. If aliens ever find and figure out how to play this record they'll discover the sounds of Chuck Berry ripping into his guitar, the magnificent thundering of Beethoven and the mournful longing of Blind Willie Johnson moaning the blues.

It's unclear if aliens will ever actually find and hear these records — Voyager 1 left our solar system in 2012 and Voyager 2 is still making its way out of the solar system, and who knows when or if they will ever reach a destination that comes equipped with listeners. And the listeners will have to be smart enough to know how to play the record as well.

"The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space," Sagan acknowledged at the time the record was put together and sent up on Voyager 1 and 2. "But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet."

Either way, the records are finally going to be available here on Earth.

A Kickstarter campaign by Ozma records raised more than $1 million to issue a limited number of copies of the record on vinyl. The campaign was such a success the company has opted to release copies of the record to the public.

The first records, complete with the sounds, images and everything else put together by Sagan and company, along with media coverage of the Voyager record as well, will go out at the end of January in a limited edition box set issued by record distributor Light in the Attic. The pre-order price is $50.

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