These past few months have ushered in a lot of good news on the space front and ISRO is being hailed to be a national success. If there’s anything that united Indians after cricket then it was the triumph of launching MOM and wrapping it up in a petite little package of just Rs 450 crore. But there was another news that caught my eye admist the horde of space front victories. It was to do with a mission launched in 1977. Yes, ISRO does win this round but we need to appreciate the thought and efforts put in by NASA way back in the years when India did not even have a proper space program. NASA’s twin voyager probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, that are the longest continuously operating spacecrafts in deep space today garnered a lot interest when news of Voyager 1 successfully left the solar system in August 2012.
Hurtling around in interstellar space, Voyager 1 is the farthest man-made object to explore space beyond the solar system. This mission has been providential to science and humankind alike. It has been credited with the discovery of 22 new satellites on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, the discovery of rings on Jupiter and auroral zones on the former three planets. But these technological advancements and increased knowledge of space bodies is not why I am writing this article. It is to familiarize people with The Golden Record, a phonographic record attached to each probe. Carl Sagan was given the heavy responsibility of choosing a format and recording a message from the inhabitants of the Earth for the extra-terrestrials out there. And the end result was a spectacular amalgamation of images, music and greetings representing the mankind mélange of cultures, languages and beliefs. What made this record so beautiful was the idea at the core which aimed at targeting both the audiences, the one inhabiting Earth and the mysterious little green men. What started out as a simple introduction in 25 different languages turned out to be the one record that defined the human race.
‘The Sounds of Earth’ as it was titled consisted of some of the greatest music of the time, a photo gallery of our planet and its inhabitants and a sound recording of the natural and technological sounds on Earth. The seemingly inconsequential part of the Voyager project turned out to be the defining constituent of the mission. The fact that the spacecraft consisted of a message for an alien civilization broke out and people were mystified as to what exactly would someone select to represent an entire population of the largest intelligent animal species on Earth. So this proved to be an important landmark in the history of mankind. We not only started to believe that we were not alone in this giant cosmic space but we believed it enough to send a message in hopes that someday, just some day, an alien civilization will find the message and finally put all doubts to rest as to if there is life anywhere else in the universe. Humans have always tried to find ways to stay together, to find comfort in each other and this was just a step towards trying to solve one of the greatest mysteries of all times.
So think about it, in a time far away, the cold metallic craft reaches the outskirts of an alien city and those tiny green men stare agape at what it could be. And while it may all sound good, both the possibilities sound terrible. We might just be alone in this universe or maybe, just maybe there is someone out there. People with lives like us and with the same emotional interludes. So when you ask yourself as to whether our race has crossed the final frontier you can now answer easily. Yes, we have.