Do you remember the first Star Trek movie? The original that came out in 1979. The thing I remember most is how slo-o-o-ow that movie was. Star Wars IV: A New Hope, with its fast action adventure, had come out two years before. Star Trek: The Motion Picture couldn't compare. To me, it was such a disappointment.
One thing I remember most is the “alien” who talked through one of the crew and threatened the starship Enterprise. It called itself V’ger (vee-ger). Since the movie has been around for forty years, I’m not going to warn “spoiler.” If you haven’t seen it by now, my telling you about V’Ger won’t make a difference. It turns out that V’ger was the probe Voyager sent out over 300 years before. Its purpose: to collect data and transmit it back to Earth.
|credit: NASA: artist's concept of Voyager in interstellar space|
For over forty years, the Voyagers have been sending back data and pictures of the places they've been. The scientists who've been working on the Voyager project now include second and third generations. Imagine working on the same project as your mother/father and grandfather/grandmother.
|credit: NASA: Earth and its moon taken by Voyager|
Every time I hear or read about the probe Voyager, I think V’ger from that movie. NASA sent out two Voyagers 42 years ago. They are the only machines that have gone beyond our solar system and crossed over into interstellar space (Voyager 1 in 2013; Voyager 2 in 2018).
They both carried a “golden record” that would give alien civilizations who encountered Voyager a glimpse of Earth. That glimpse includes images from Earth, sounds of nature (like surf, wind and thunder, birds, whales, and other animals), musical selections from different cultures and eras, spoken greetings from Earth people in fifty-five languages, and printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim.
Are you wondering who decided what to put on that record? A committee chaired by Carl Sagan. They even included illustrated directions on how to play the record. [I hope the directions are better than those that came with my air fryer.]
"The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space."
Considering the scary movies in which aliens invade Earth or wipe out the inhabitants to they can salvage Earth’s resources, I wonder if we really want to reach out to alien civilizations. Do we want them to know we’re here?
But then I think remember awe-inspiring movies like Contact, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Star Trek: First Contact. Aliens could be friendly. They could want to help us achieve interstellar travel.
What do you think? Was it a good idea to send out the Voyagers?