September 6, 2017 | David F. Coppedge

Aliens Discover Voyager Record

Certain humans are identifying with space aliens, pretending to know what they like.

Forty years ago, the Voyager craft were launched for a mission that would never end. The craft, even after depleted of fuel and electronics, would sail endlessly through the stars. The open trajectory of the Voyagers’ voyages prompted Carl Sagan to send a memento from Earth to any potential space aliens who might recover the craft, even though Earth might long have returned to cinder when our sun expands some day into a red giant, engulfing us all.

JPL’s auditorium contains a full size model of Voyager, with the golden record facing the audience. Photo by David Coppedge.

The memento took the form of a gold-plated record, encoded with photographs and sounds from Earth. But records are so 1977. Who knows if the aliens expect cloud storage now?

Surviving designers of the record describe their design rationale at, but made generous assumptions at the time, such as the notions that the aliens are good at math, or that the craft could survive impact with a planet or star.

The likelihood of interception by space aliens has always been considered extremely low, even by true believers. Sagan undertook the Voyager Record project as somewhat of a publicity stunt, a message where the actual recipients would be ourselves. In Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record (1978), he wrote about how he consulted scientists, engineers and various sci-fi writers, including Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, about the project:

Many of the consultants emphasized that receipt of the message by an extraterrestrial civilization was chancy at best, while its receipt by the inhabitants of Earth was guaranteed; the public would eventually have access to the message contents, as is in fact accomplished by this book. As [Bernard] Oliver put it, “There is only an infinitesimal chance that the plaque will ever be seen a single extraterrestrial, but it will certainly be seen by billions of terrestrials. Its real function, therefore, is to appeal to and expand the human spirit, and to make contact with extraterrestrial intelligence a welcome expectation of mankind” (p. 11).

Its real function, therefore, is to appeal to and expand the human spirit, and to make contact with extraterrestrial intelligence a welcome expectation of mankind.

By syllogism, if the intended recipients are aliens, and humans are the guaranteed recipients, then we are the aliens. Sagan and party might not have considered that illogical. Consider that alien status is a matter of perspective. To the inhabitants of other planets, we are their aliens. And even if there are no space aliens out there, it’s trendy these days to identify as something other than what you are. The denizens of Star Trek conventions and Star Wars parties go to great lengths to identify with various alien beings: Wookies, Klingons, and even Jabba the Hut (some obese persons don’t have to change much). Who knows? Maybe some of them, like in the movie Galaxy Quest, are for real. [Cue Twilight Zone theme].

We hope some day, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations. –President Jimmy Carter on the Voyager Record

Human aliens enjoy anniversaries. Upon the 40th anniversary of the Voyager Record, some are re-listening to The Sounds of Earth and thinking it needs an update. tells how surviving relatives of Sagan and designer Jon Lomborg are releasing “The Voyager Record TNG” (The Next Generation) with a new mix, remastered sounds and new selections. These can be beamed up to

Encoded in the Voyager Record are 118 images of earthlings and their lives, plus greetings in 55 languages (including Humpback Whale) and a suite of music from ethnic cultures (including Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”)

New Horizons, another spacecraft destined for the stars, reflecting the rapid pace of audio and communications technologies after 1977. And how can the aliens resist, now that Captain Kirk (William Shatner) just beamed a message to the Voyager spacecraft to celebrate the anniversary? says his message was selected from 30,000 entries and beamed from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on September 5 during a televised news conference at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. The message says, “We offer friendship across the stars. You are not alone.” (Note: Shatner is not a starship commander, but he plays one on TV.)

In the long scheme of things, though, 40 years is a tiny slice of the time expected for Voyager to reach the nearest star (about 40,000 years). Will the message even be recognizable after a thousand future technological revolutions?

It’s certainly an alien behavior for a human being to trust in the existence of theoretical beings whose existence lacks any shred of evidence, especially if those beings have to have been the products of chance and the Stuff Happens Law. It seems alien to human logic as well to spend vast amounts of effort with infinitesimal chances of success. And it is unquestionably alien to decry intelligent design as pseudoscience while relying on it. Humans may be space aliens, but some humans are more alien than others.

The only non-alien status possible for a human being is to be within the family of God, our Creator. God has always offered friendship. We never were alone. But our sins alienated us from our Maker. Christ removed the barrier that alienated us by dying on the cross and rising again. Paul told the Gentiles who had come back to God through faith in Christ, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:18). Follow the map and find your way home.



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