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BigLogo.gif UN Member States on the Record

2013: une odyssée dans l'espace interstellaire (pour les archives audiovisuelles de l'ONU)

Thursday, 2 January  2014, Global | DPI

As the world reflects on 2013, one notable record was the NASA spacecraft, Voyager 1, leaving our solar system and becoming the first human-made object to enter the interstellar space. Perhaps little was known, or remembered, that on that vessel, now some 18 billion kilometres from the sun, are some United Nations audiovisual material that the Voyager took with it when it lifted off from the Earth in 1977, including a voice message from the late Kurt Waldheim, the then Secretary-General:

 “As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, an Organization of 147 Member States who represent almost all of the human inhabitants of the planet Earth, I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet,” Mr. Waldheim says. “We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship.” Listen to the speech here.

This recording accompanies other greetings spoken in 55 languages, sounds from the Earth, and a musical selection from different cultures and times, curated by a team led by astronomer Carl Sagan. One hundred and fifteen images, of which 12 are from our very own UN Photo Library, were also encoded in analog form onto a gold-plated copper disk called the Golden Record, which comes with instructions in symbols explaining the origin of the spacecraft and how to play the Record.

It is a message in a bottle to the great unknown beyond our humble planet. According to NASA, it will be 40,000 years before the Voyager approaches any other planetary system. The Golden Record attempts to tell the story of life on Earth, in the chance that it might be picked up by intelligent extraterrestrials, if they exist.

It’s awe-inspiring to ponder that this voice from the UN, which has already outlived its speaker, will speak on our behalf and introduce our existence, if the Record is ever played.

The UN photos on board the Voyager show scenes of our daily life, including rush-hour traffic in Bangkok, Thailand; fishermen at work on a boat in Greece; and men building a brick house in Cameroon. You can see the rest of the photos included in the Golden Record here.

These records of our lives will outlast all of us. While the Voyager’s ability to communicate data back to Earth will end in the next decade or so, the spacecraft was built to last at least a billion years. And it may forever float along the Milky Way.

Reflecting on the smallness of our planet shown as a “pale blue dot” in a photograph taken by Voyager 1, Carl Sagan once said that this representation of our tiny existence in time and space “underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known”.

That’s a message that fits nicely with the mission of the United Nations.

To learn more about Voyager 1 and Voyager 2’s missions and the Golden Record, which the twin spacecrafts both carry a copy of, visit http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov.

To find out more about the treasures that the DPI’s Audiovisual Archives hold, please visit http://www.unmultimedia.org.