Voyager 1 & 2

Time Capsules

Up
Time Capsule 1939
Time Capsule 1964
Capsule Contents
Crypt of Civilisation
Indestructible Bottle
Apollo 11
Pioneer 10 & 11
Voyager 1 & 2

Tales of Future Past
Ephemeral Isle
Freelance Writing
Radio Plays
Shop

Back
Up

 


 

Support Tales of Future Past!

Help us keep Tales of Future Past going and growing with your donation to our bandwidth fund.


 

 

 

 

Voyager record cover

Custom Search

Deciphering the record cover.Okay, so what is this?  How do you read this thing.?  Unlike any ETs that might come across it, you can click on the thumbnail.

 

Voyager deep space probeThe Voyager missions were the logical extension of the Pioneers.  Like the Pioneers, the two Voyager craft used the slingshot technique to reach the outer reaches of the Solar System and attained speeds that flung them into interstellar space.  But because they were larger craft, it was possible to go the Pioneer probes one better and include a proper record of man's civilisation. 

In fact, that is exactly what was sent along; a record.  Bolted to the spacecraft was a gold-plated copper LP behind an aluminium cover plate inscribed with instructions on how to play the record and a needle cartridge just in case Victrolas are hard to come by in the Andromeda galaxy.  Records imply sounds and those carried by Voyager carried a selection of tunes that is now used for NPR bumper music, wildlife noises, and kiddies giving the usual vapid greetings.  But in addition, the record also includes photographs with a remarkable emphasis on biology , a disturbing fascination with reproduction that reflects a lot of hidden assumptions about biology, and National Geographic pictorials; all formatted for audio disks.  

Voyager record But things had changed since the '60s-- not to mention the '30s, and it wasn't just that this time capsule was being blasted into space. 

This wasn't a message from an exuberant people eager to present their credentials.  This was a cautiously compiled catalogue from a people who had become trapped in the grip of self-doubt.  It isn't pessimistic; just not optimistic.  The 1939 Westinghouse Time Capsule and its 1964 brother described the 20th century for the benefit of the 70th.  Their message reflected, at least in the beginning, a people who saw themselves as occupying a real place in history and wanted to tell their descendants as much as they could about  their civilisation.  If the 1939 or ‘64 capsules had been fired into space, their message, allowing for the language barrier, would have been “This is who we are, this is what we have accomplished for all our faults, and we will be shortly following this capsule, which is our calling card.” In other words, the capsule would have been an embassy to other races, much as the time capsules were an embassy to the future.

The Voyager records, on the other hand, lack any real confidence.  The committee that put together the records weren't even certain what their civilisation was beyond a massy dough of humanity that was indescribably insignificant when measured against the Cosmos or any beings that might find that Voyager doohicky.  The contents were carefully chosen not to be American or even Western, nor to reflect any ideology; at least, not any ideology that didn't sit comfortably with the Berkeley faculty lounge (sexism was a big no no).  The images and sounds turned their backs on the culture that created them. They are in the Western tradition, but they are not Western. They are certainly not American. They are Internationalist; not of the confident FDR or JFK type meant to civilise the world, but of an insecure, Carteresque, "What do you guys think," UN sort. The committee's message was more along the lines of “Hello. We’re here. We look like this, except some of us look like that, and here’s some kids, trees, leaves, and things, and the UN General Secretary will be along in a moment to say ‘hi’.  Sorry to bother you.” 

For them, man was an animal to be studied, not their brethren to be understood.  So, the record has pictures of Thai craftsmen, Portuguese fishermen, New England frame houses, African huts, Indian traffic jams, the Great Wall of China, and chimpanzees (which the committee felt ETs would regard as "identical" to humans)-- all as different as chalk and cheese and all very multicultural, but with nothing in the selection to explain what one had to do with the other. 

The record is a remarkable piece of work, but it is also an indication that the time of Future Past was gone. By the late '70s, the focused concept of who we were and where we were going was in the process of full collapse.  This was a message of self-doubt from a committee whose most influential member habitually phrased his remarks about man's future with "if we don't destroy ourselves."  Reading Sagan's remarks about the making of the record, I often wonder if he meant it as a message or a funeral marker.  Otherwise, why all the concern about avoiding anything that could be even vaguely construed as negative even though no one was likely to see the thing for a couple of billion years?  In the Westinghouse capsule there was room for newsreel footage of the rape of Nanking. 

It could be argued that the Westinghouse capsule was Chauvinistic because it dealt with Western civilisation and only gave passing reference to other cultures on the planet.  There are reasonable arguments against this approach, which I heard a lot of when I taught history, but against this it must be pointed out that the capsules were the product of Western civilisation and since it was our civilisation that paid for the mike, we deserve centre stage-- not to mention that since the West has proven itself the single greatest influence on world history, wanting to concentrate on it is not an exercise in parochialism.  At the very least, such an approach lends itself to telling a coherent story and that is vital when one has limited time for telling the tale. 

The Voyager committee cleaved to the post-modern idea that to include one means to include all.  So, out goes Debussy and in come Pygmy tunes and Mozart gets three minutes.   Paradoxically, that was their excuse for not including anything about religion, though why at least the four or five major faiths couldn't be depicted is beyond me.  The result is less the Story of Man than the Humankind Dolly's Mixture. 

The musical selections read like a music ethnologist’s shopping list with a track of whale songs proposed to avoid being too "humano-centric" (I'm not kidding).  It includes incredibly obscure bits of folk music that the committee had a heck of a time tracking down, but no hymns, or martial or patriotic music. It is notable, however,  that Carl Sagan went to great lengths to vet his Russian selection with the Soviets because he didn't wish to give offence by including something that was too "capitalist."  Had it been forty years earlier would he have run his Bach selection by the Nazis for their okay, I wonder?

No doubt about it.  The Voyager records were the product of  a decade that had come loose from its moorings.


Voyager Record Contents

I. Images

  1. Calibration circle, Jon Lomberg

  2. Solar location map, Frank Drake
  3. Mathematical definitions, Frank Drake
  4. Physical unit definitions, Frank Drake
  5. Solar system parameters, Frank Drake
  6. Solar system parameters, Frank Drake
  7. The Sun, Hale observatories
  8. Solar spectrum, National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Cornell University (NAIC)
  9. Mercury, NASA
  10. Mars, NASA
  11. Jupiter, NASA
  12. Earth, NASA
  13. Egypt, Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula and the Nile, NASA
  14. Chemical definitions, Frank Drake
  15. DNA Structure, Jon Lomberg
  16. DNA Structure magnified, light hit, Jon Lomberg
  17. Cells and cell division, Turtox/Cambosco
  18. Anatomy 1, World Book
  19. Anatomy 2, World Book
  20. Anatomy 3, World Book
  21. Anatomy 4, World Book
  22. Anatomy 5, World Book
  23. Anatomy 6, World Book
  24. Anatomy 7, World Book
  25. Anatomy 8, World Book
  26. Human sex organs, Sinauer Associates, Inc.
  27. Diagram of conception, Jon Lomberg
  28. Conception , Albert Bonniers; Forlag, Stockholm
  29. Fertilized ovum, Albert Bonniers; Forlag, Stockholm
  30. Fetus diagram, Jon Lomberg
  31. Fetus, Dr. Frank Allan
  32. Diagram of male and female, Jon Lomberg
  33. Birth, Wayne Miller
  34. Nursing mother, UN
  35. Father and daughter (Malaysia), David Harvey
  36. Group of children, Ruby Mera, UNICEF
  37. Diagram of family ages, Jon Lomberg
  38. Family portrait, Nina Leen, Time, Inc.
  39. Diagram of continental drift, Jon Lomberg
  40. Structure of Earth, Jon Lomberg
  41. Heron Island (Great Barrier Reef of Australia), Dr. Jay M. Pasachoff
  42. Seashore, Dick Smith
  43. Snake River and Grand Tetons, Ansel Adams
  44. Sand dunes, George Mobley
  45. Monument Valley, Shostal Associates, Inc.
  46. Forest scene with mushrooms, Bruce Dale
  47. Leaf, Arthur Herrick
  48. Fallen leaves, Jodi Cobb
  49. Snowflake over Sequoia, Josef Muench, R. Sisson
  50. Tree with daffodils, Gardens Winterthur, Winterthur Museum
  51. Flying insect with flowers, Borne on the Wind, Stephen Dalton
  52. Diagram of vertebrate evolution, Jon Lomberg
  53. Seashell (Xancidae), Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
  54. Dolphins, Thomas Nebbia
  55. School of fish, David Doubilet
  56. Tree toad, Dave Wickstrom
  57. Crocodile, Peter Beard
  58. Eagle, Donona, Taplinger Publishing Co.
  59. Waterhole, South African Tourist Corp.
  60. Jane Goodall and chimps, Vanne Morris-Goodall
  61. Sketch of bushmen, Jon Lomberg
  62. Bushmen hunters, R. Farbman, Time, Inc.
  63. Man from Guatemala, UN
  64. Dancer from Bali, donna Grosvenor
  65. Andean girls, Joseph Scherschel
  66. Thailand craftsman, Dean conger
  67. Elephant, Peter Kunstadter
  68. Old man with beard and glasses (Turkey), Jonathon Blair
  69. Old man with dog and flowers, Bruce Baumann
  70. Mountain climber, Gaston Rebuffat
  71. Gymnast, Philip Leonian, Sports Illustrated
  72. Sprinters (Valeri Borzov of the U.S.S.R. in lead), History of the Olympics, Picturepoint, London
  73. Schoolroom, UN
  74. Children with globe, UN
  75. Cotton harvest, Howell Walker
  76. Grape picker, David Moore
  77. Supermarket, NAIC
  78. Underwater scene with diver and fish, Jerry Greenberg
  79. Fishing boat with nets, UN
  80. Cooking fish, Cooking of Spain and Portugal, Time-Life Books
  81. Chinese dinner party, Time-Life Books
  82. Demonstration of licking, eating and drinking, NAIC
  83. Great Wall of China, H. Edward Kim
  84. House construction (African), UN
  85. Construction scene (Amish country), William Albert Allard
  86. House (Africa), UN
  87. House (New England), Robert Sisson
  88. Modern house (Cloudcroft, New Mexico), Frank Drake
  89. House interior with artist and fire, Jim Amos
  90. Taj Mahal, David Carroll
  91. English city (Oxford), C.S. Lewis, Images of His World, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
  92. Boston, Ted Spiegel
  93. UN Building Day, UN
  94. UN Building Night, UN
  95. Sydney Opera House, Mike Long
  96. Artisan with drill, Frank Hewlett
  97. Factory interior, Fred Ward
  98. Museum, David Cupp
  99. X-ray of hand, NAIC
  100. Woman with microscope, UN
  101. Street scene, Asia (Pakistan), UN
  102. Rush hour traffic, India, UN
  103. Modern highway (Ithaca), NAIC
  104. Golden Gate Bridge, Ansel Adams
  105. Train, Gordon Gahan
  106. Airplane in flight, Frank Drake
  107. Airport (Toronto), George Hunter
  108. Antarctic Expedition, Great Adventures with the National Geographic National Geographic
  109. Radio telescope (Westerbork, Netherlands), James Blair
  110. Radio telescope (Arecibo), NAIC
  111. Page of book (Newton, System of the World), NAIC
  112. Astronaut in space, NASA
  113. Titan Centaur launch, NASA
  114. Sunset with birds, David Harvey
  115. String Quartet (Quartetto Italiano), Phillips Recordings
  116. Violin with music score (Cavatina), NAIC 

II. Music

  1. Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F. First Movement, Munich Bach Orchestra, Karl Richter, conductor. 4:40
  2. Java, court gamelan, "Kinds of Flowers," recorded by Robert Brown. 4:43
  3. Senegal, percussion, recorded by Charles Duvelle. 2:08
  4. Zaire, Pygmy girls' initiation song, recorded by Colin Turnbull. 0:56
  5. Australia, Aborigine songs, "Morning Star" and "Devil Bird," recorded by Sandra LeBrun Holmes. 1:26
  6. Mexico, "El Cascabel," performed by Lorenzo Barcelata and the Mariachi México. 3:14
    "Johnny B. Goode," written and performed by Chuck Berry. 2:38
  7. New Guinea, men's house song, recorded by Robert MacLennan. 1:20
  8. Japan, shakuhachi, "Tsuru No Sugomori" ("Crane's Nest,") performed by Goro Yamaguchi. 4:51
  9. Bach, "Gavotte en rondeaux" from the Partita No. 3 in E major for Violin, performed by Arthur Grumiaux. 2:55
  10. Mozart, The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night aria, no. 14. Edda Moser, soprano. Bavarian State Opera, Munich, Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor. 2:55
  11. Georgian S.S.R., chorus, "Tchakrulo," collected by Radio Moscow. 2:18
  12. Peru, panpipes and drum, collected by Casa de la Cultura, Lima. 0:52
  13. "Melancholy Blues," performed by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven. 3:05
  14. Azerbaijan S.S.R., bagpipes, recorded by Radio Moscow. 2:30
  15. Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky, conductor. 4:35
  16. Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude and Fugue in C, No.1. Glenn Gould, piano. 4:48
  17. Beethoven, Fifth Symphony, First Movement, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, conductor. 7:20
  18. Bulgaria, "Izlel e Delyo haidutin," sung by Valya Balkanska. 4:59
  19. Navajo Indians, Night Chant, recorded by Willard Rhodes. 0:57
  20. Holborne, Paueans, Galliards, Almains and Other Short Aeirs, "The Fairie Round," performed by David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London. 1:17
  21. Solomon Islands, panpipes, collected by the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service. 1:12
  22. Peru, wedding song, recorded by John Cohen. 0:38
  23. China, ch'in, "Flowing Streams," performed by Kuan P'ing-hu. 7:37
  24. India, raga, "Jaat Kahan Ho," sung by Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar. 3:30
  25. "Dark Was the Night," written and performed by Blind Willie Johnson. 3:15
  26. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B flat, Opus 130, Cavatina, performed by Budapest String Quartet. 6:37

III. Sounds of Earth

  1. Music of The Spheres
  2. Wind
  3. Rain
  4. Surf
  5. Volcanoes
  6. Earthquake
  7. Thunder
  8. Mud Pots
  9. Herding Sheep
  10. Blacksmith
  11. Sawing
  12. The First Tools
  13. Fire
  14. Speech
  15. Footsteps
  16. Heartbeat
  17. Laughter
  18. Wild Dog
  19. Tame Dog
  20. Chimpanzee
  21. Birds
  22. Hyena
  23. Elephant
  24. Crickets
  25. Frogs
  26. Tractor
  27. Riveter
  28. Morse Code
  29. Ships
  30. Horse and Cart
  31. Train
  32. Tractor
  33. Bus
  34. Motor Car
  35. F-111 Flyby
  36. Saturn 5 Lift-off
  37. Kiss
  38. Mother and Child
  39. Life Signs
  40. Pulsar

IV. Greetings

  1. Swedish
  2. Sotho
  3. Vietnamese
  4. French
  5. Hebrew
  6. Hittite
  7. Nyanja
  8. Nguni
  9. Hindi
  10. Romanian
  11. Akkadian
  12. Ila (Zambia)
  13. Italian
  14. Urdu
  15. Arabic
  16. Sumerian
  17. Portuguese
  18. Kechua
  19. Japanese
  20. Polish
  21. Luganda
  22. Cantonese
  23. Dutch
  24. Punjabi
  25. Nepali
  26. Amoy (Min dialect)
  27. Russian
  28. German
  29. Turkish
  30. Mandarin Chinese
  31. Marathi
  32. Thai
  33. Bengali
  34. Welsh
  35. Gujarati
  36. Kannada
  37. Telugu
  38. Oriya
  39. Rajasthani
  40. Czech
  41. Hungarian
  42. Burmese
  43. Sinhalese
  44. Wu
  45. Ukrainian
  46. Aramaic
  47. Spanish
  48. Greek
  49. Korean
  50. Persian
  51. Serbian
  52. English
  53. Indonesian
  54. Latin
  55. Armenian

Back to Tales of Future Past

Tales of Future Past | Ephemeral Isle | Freelance Writing | Radio Plays | Shop