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You can now listen to Voyager's Golden Record, Earth's greeting to alien civilizations

More than 40 years ago, humans launched a mixtape into the vast reaches of space, in the form of a pair of Golden Records. The two Voyager spacecraft were launched within days of each other in 1977, and each one carried a message from Earth to any alien civilization they might encounter in the form of a 90-minute recording containing some of the sounds, messages, and pictures from our planet.

Voyager 1 is now 13 billion miles from Earth, and Voyager 2 is some 11 billion miles distant. Neither will come remotely close to another star for 40,000 years, yet they each carry a message from humanity in the form of the Voyager Interstellar Record. It was engraved in copper and plated in gold.

And very few people on Earth had ever heard it, until now.

The recording itself is an eclectic mixture, containing everything from Bach and Beethoven to Chuck Berry and Blind Willie Johnson. The “Songs of Earth” track features sounds from our planet and our civilization – whales, chimpanzees, thunder, and lots more. It also includes greetings from around the world in 55 languages and more than 100 images etched in analog form.

Several years ago, David Pescovitz, an editor at Boing Boing and a research director at the nonprofit Institute for the Future, joined up with Tim Daly, a record store manager. With the blessings of Timothy Ferris, producer of the original recording, they set out to release the Golden Record to the people of Earth.

After finding the master recordings in Sony’s music archives and securing the rights to the music and images, they set up a Kickstarter campaign to finance the release. Although they thought it would appeal only to a niche audience, the project caught the attention of people around the globe.

“The internet was just on fire, talking about this thing,” Daly told NPR. They obliterated their original funding goal in just two days and eventually raised more than a million dollars for the project, the most successful Kickstarter campaign in history. Family members of the original NASA Voyager mission team were among the initial 11,000 contributors.

The Voyager Interstellar Record is now available from Ozma Records, both on vinyl and CD format. The beautiful collection also includes the images from the recording and a print of the original cover diagram.

“None of us knew, when we launched 40 years ago, that anything would still be working, and continuing on this pioneering journey,” said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist. “The most exciting thing they find in the next five years is likely to be something that we didn’t know was out there to be discovered.”

Even after they run out of power, the Voyager spacecraft could still last for billions of years, silently drifting through space. One day, the Golden Records may be the only traces left of human civilization.

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