In the summer of 1977, NASA launched two spacecraft as part of the Voyager Interstellar Mission. Their primary mission was to study and send back information on Jupiter and Saturn. They succeeded in this task, to gather priceless knowledge of the outer planets of our solar system, but the spaceships were concieved as martyrs. No return route was possible.
It was known that eventually, the two crafts would escape our solar system, passing the point where communication was possible, and would continue hurtling through the universe into interstellar space. With their fate in mind, the spacecraft were outfitted with time capsules to transmit essential information about life on Earth.
The time capsules are gold-plated records – plaques of bionic codes that include, among other things, the sound of a kiss, a whale song, music from all over the world, and greetings in over 50 different languages. Engineers designed the records to last billions of years and they also included photos, pictures of trees and lakes and monuments, and human experiences like that of a mother breast feeding her child. These spacecraft continue today into the great expanse of space behind our solar system. And the hope is, that against all odds, the records might someday represent our history, should they cross paths with new civilizations. And this was Carl Sagan’s idea.
Sagan, already a famed astronomer and astrophysicist, hired a project manager to help curate the sounds and images of our human experience that would bring the records to life. That project manager was Ann Druyan, an author and cosmologist. The two fell in love on their first phone call about the project, and married. They had two children and continued to work together on Sagan’s popular PBS series, Cosmos, until Sagan’s death in 1996.
“The Voyagers” is a beautiful short film about about Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, two small spacecraft, an epic journey, serendipity and falling in love:
Even when we’re gone, we’ll be traveling in time.
Also from Carl Sagan: The Pale Blue Dot.