A Valentine for the Ages
In honor of Valentine’s Day, the RadioLab guys (LOVE the RadioLab guys) were on NPR’s Morning Edition with a sweet story of love and science. It combines two of my favorite things, love and space exploration, and I liked it so much I had to try not to cry in the car.
First a little back story. In 1977 NASA launched the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes. The main mission of these probes was to explore the outer solar system. Many of you may remember the awesome images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune sent back by the probes in the early to mid-1980’s.
Now, NASA knew that the probes were never going to come home, they would just float off into the far reaches of space. NASA figured, well, some day, maybe a thousand million years from now, some alien civilization may run across these things and wonder what they are. Kind of like in the original Star Trek movie. But less hokey.
In 1977 astronomer Carl Sagan created a message for the Voyagers to carry into space. The Voyager Golden Record contains images and sounds from Earth, including music and greetings in 50 different languages. So if in a thousand million years a civilization hundreds of light years away finds this record and figures out how to play it, it will say hi, we’re the people of planet Earth. Here’s where we live, who we are, and what our planet is like.
Here’s where the romantic part comes in. Carl Sagan’s future wife Ann Druyan worked with him on the Voyager project. I don’t want to give away too much, so you can listen to her tell the story in the original episode here. But part of that recording is very personal. A sort of portrait of a woman at the beginning of her courtship with the man she would later marry. Carl Sagan passed away in 1996, but his wife’s love for him will carry on long after she is gone too. Long after all of us are gone, into the farthest reaches of space and time. A valentine for the ages.