When Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 took off in 1977, they both left Earth’s atmosphere carrying a message otherwise known as the Golden Record to hypothetical aliens. Now that Voyager 1 is floating in interstellar space, with its twin to follow in several years, we need to send another message—on another satellite.
The “Golden Record” was designed to teach any E.T.’s who may have not phoned home yet a crash course on Earth and Earthlings. Recorded onto each record were photos, music, sounds and other data the Voyager team envisioned it someday reaching an intelligent civilization that exists light-years away. The next satellite soon headed beyond our solar system is New Horizons, and scientists don’t want to slip through their fingers without carrying some sort of message to tell anyone out there that we’re out here.
"[New Horizons] is leaving without a Golden Record, without a message," said Jon Lomberg, design director for the Voyagers' Golden Record who collaborated with the committee chair, none other than Carl Sagan. "That seems like a missed opportunity."
Enter Golden Record 2.0 aka One Earth Message.
One Earth Message is a digital version of the Golden Record that will be crowdsourced (don’t look at NASA for funding here) for the $75,000 it will need to be transmitted to New Horizons in 2020.
Since August 20 marked the 40-year anniversary of the Voyager launch, it was then that Lomberg and his team got a Kickstarter campaign ready for liftoff. Why so expensive? There needs to be a website built for photos and any other material people send in as potential facets of the One Earth Message, and a website crawling with frequent digital submissions of what we think aliens should know about our planet must be managed and maintained. Assuming there are no glitches, voting will determine what will ultimately get beamed to New Horizons.
New Horizons recently whizzed past Pluto and is en route to object 2014 MU69. Transmitting all the data it collects on this object will take about a year, clearing enough memory to upload the One Earth Message. Lomberg is optimistic this timeframe is enough to pull it off, but he will still need NASA approval. Chances for that are astronomically higher when you present a finished product.
Lomberg sees far past New Horizons when it comes to sending messages into space. He sees a future in which every probe that eventually goes interstellar traverses the universe with a message onboard.
"We will never know if there is an E.T. audience, but for the human audience that participates, it can be a profoundly moving experience to seriously contemplate communicating with the cosmos,” he said.
Whether the aliens (if they exist) will even recognize the message as a method of communication and not an expertly disguised nuclear weapon is an entirely different issue.