Up for auction: First interstellar message sent by humankind to the cosmos

The Golden Record can fetch anywhere between $400,000 and $600,000.
Sejal Sharma
Master Copy of Golden Record
Master Copy of Golden Record


One of the most important artifacts in the history of space exploration and recorded sound, the master copy of the famous Golden Record attached to NASA’s Voyager probes is up for grabs.

A copy of the master recording will be auctioned at the Sotheby's this month and is expected to fetch anywhere between $400,000 and $600,000.

Preceding the launch of Voyager 1 and 2 in the 1970s, space probes Pioneers 10 and 11 both carried small metal plaques which are kind of like a time capsule shot out into space for the benefit of any extraterrestrial life that might find them in the distant future.

Golden Record was assembled over a six-month period

The Voyager message is carried by a phonograph record, a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, says NASA

A committee chaired by American astronomer Carl Sagan selected the contents of the record for NASA. It contains 115 images and a variety of natural sounds - like surf, wind and thunder, birds, whales, and other animals. 

It also contains musical selections from different cultures and eras, including Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Stravinsky, Louis Armstrong, and other notable musicians. It also contains spoken greetings in 55 languages and printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim.

"The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space,” said Carl Sagan, who died in 1996.

Furthest man-made objects from Earth

Made of copper and plated in gold, there exist only eight copies of the record. Two of these are on the actual probes. The master copy up for auction is actually the personal copy of Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan.

Druyan was the director of the project and played a leading role in curating the music, which is meant to reflect the human experience, including a rainforest noisy with life, a mother’s first words to her baby, the brain waves and heart sounds of a woman newly in love.

“Almost half a century since their creation, these tapes, which have never been out of our possession since they were made, present a unique opportunity for a collector to obtain the only original version of the first object to cross the heliopause, that place where the solar wind gives way to the gales of interstellar cosmic rays—it may be the only thing that will live on after everything we know is gone,” Druyan said in an interview to Robb Report.

An unparalleled document in the history of space exploration and human civilization, each record is placed inside an aluminum jacket. Instructions, in symbolic language, explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played. 

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