A snapshot of a woman in a supermarket, a photo of the Great Barrier Reef, a page of Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica Volume 3: these are a few of the 116 images on the Voyager 1 space probe’s Golden Record. Launched in 1977 by NASA, the Golden Record, a copper phonograph LP, was intended to provide a picture of life on planet Earth to any aliens who might encounter the spacecraft, with greetings, sounds, music, and images. In 2012, after traveling for 35 years, the Voyager 1 left the solar system, becoming the first object made by humans to enter interstellar space.
An index of these images has long been available on NASA’s website, but Vox has just created a 5-minute video presenting all 116 of them in a rapid-fire slideshow format, in the order they would be read off the Golden Record.
Narrated by astronomer Carl Sagan, who led the NASA committee that selected the images, the video reveals what could, in 5 billion years, be the only surviving traces of the human race in the universe. “None of our artifacts will have survived on earth, and the evolution of the sun will have burned the earth to a crisp,” Sagan says in the video. But “far from home, untouched by these remote events, the Voyagers, bearing the memories of a world that is no more, will fly on.”
They’re no longer the only photographs flying around in space, though — in 2012, for The Last Pictures, the artist Trevor Paglen created an update of sorts to the Golden Record, launching a series of 100 images depicting contemporary human life on a communications satellite. In a few billion years, perhaps aliens will be probing both sets of images in a galaxy far, far away.
See an online album of the Golden Record images here.