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Voyager and Mission Longevity

Sometimes it’s helpful to look back at the original intent of a space mission. Extending missions is all about continuing to do good science, and it’s often a major benefit of missions as successful as Voyager. But consider the Voyager parameters when the two craft launched in 1977. The plan: Study Jupiter and Saturn, as well as their larger moons and Saturn’s rings, with spacecraft that were built to last five years.

That primary mission, of course, was completed and led on to Voyager 2’s flybys of Uranus and Neptune, and Voyager 1’s crossing into the interstellar medium, a 40-year mission still returning data. Voyager 2 will make a similar crossing within the next few years.

I’ve said a lot about Voyager in this space and have even advocated a final thruster burn for each when the two craft reach the end of their energy supplies, in a purely symbolic trajectory change that would bring them closer to nearby stars than they otherwise would travel (see Voyager to a Star).

This goes back to a Carl Sagan notion that Jim Bell also discussed in his book The Interstellar Age (Dutton, 2015). The two stars in question are Gliese 445 (Voyager 1) and Ross 248 (Voyager 2). Here’s a snip from my essay on the matter:

Carl Sagan and the team working on the Voyager Golden Record wondered whether something could be done about the fact that neither Voyager was headed for another Solar System. Is it possible that toward the end of the Voyagers’ active lifetimes (somewhere in the 2020s), we could set up a trajectory change that would eventually lead Voyager as close as possible to one of these stars? Enough hydrazine is available on each craft that, just before we lose radio contact with them forever, we could give them a final, tank-emptying burn. Tens of thousands of years later, the ancient craft, blind, mute but still more or less intact, would drift in the general vicinity of a star whose inhabitants, if any, might find them and wonder.

As I said, purely symbolic, but I think the symbol is powerful. But someday we’ll be sending craft on long-duration missions with the hopes of delivering more than an ancient, silent relic. We’ll want deep journeys coupled with robust data return. Thus a key question for any deep space travel is the lifetime of a spacecraft, and what a heartening example the Voyagers have set by outlasting their original parameters. Can we really build craft that could return data for centuries on missions as far out as the Oort Cloud, or beyond?

Firing Up Voyager

We learn with each new mission, but in terms of Voyager, we’ve just been given another example of how robust even these early spacecraft are. In a move that scientists believe will extend the lifetime of Voyager 1 by two to three years, engineers have fired backup thrusters that have not been used for 37 years. Made by Aerojet Rocketdyne, Voyager’s MR-103 thrusters were highly useful during the Jupiter and Saturn flybys, orienting the craft as they made observations of the planets and their huge number of moons.

The trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) thrusters are located on the back side of the spacecraft, identical to the craft’s attitude control thrusters, but because Voyager 1’s last planetary flyby was at Saturn, there had been no need to use them since November 8, 1980. During the Saturn encounter they were in continuous firing mode rather than the short bursts that the attitude control thrusters normally employ.

On November 28, 2017 engineers fired the four TCM thrusters on Voyager 1 and tested spacecraft orientation changes using 10-millisecond pulses. A wait of 19 hours and 35 minutes followed, reminding us just how far from home (141.3 AU, or 21.1 billion kilometers from Earth as of this morning) Voyager 1 now travels. But the TCM thrusters worked without flaw.

Waking up these thrusters is fascinating in its own right, but it was also a necessary move. The attitude control thrusters on Voyager 1 had been degrading, requiring more firing to achieve the same effect. In any case, Voyager 1 was already using its set of backup attitude thrusters.

But switching to the TCM thrusters to perform spacecraft orientation wasn’t cut and dried. It required unearthing data that hadn’t been examined in decades. Given the amount of time since the original software was written, the Voyager team had to wade into assembler language that is now long outdated. Todd Barber, a propulsion engineer on the mission at JPL, catches a bit of the mood as the news of successful operation finally came in:

“The Voyager team got more excited each time with each milestone in the thruster test. The mood was one of relief, joy and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all.”

Image: An artist concept depicting one of NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft. Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft are celebrating 40 years in August and September 2017. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Now that the TCM thrusters have been tested, the plan is to switch to them in January, although there is a price: Voyager 1 will need to turn on one heater per thruster, itself a use of precious power. When the heaters are no longer an option, the plan will be to switch back to the attitude control thrusters. A similar test will probably take place for Voyager 2.

Can we build spacecraft capable of enduring generations as they tackle increasingly distant missions beyond the Solar System? The evidence from the Voyagers is that the idea is realistic. What a tribute to the original engineering of these craft that they are still in the news.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Infinite123Lifer December 4, 2017, 14:21

    The stuff of legends.

  • Alex Tolley December 4, 2017, 14:27

    The Voyager probes used quite primitive electronics compared to our current probes. In particular, as the CPUs become much more powerful, their transistor and connection widths decrease, making them more vulnerable to GCR damage. I expect this trend to continue, with strategies of redundancy and self-healing chips to mitigate some of that radiation damage with long journey times. For AIs on future missions, neuromorphic chips may prove more robust than current architectures, but that is speculative.

    Without some sort of self repair, probe mission times may paradoxically become shorter as the chips become more vulnerable to radiation damage and fail earlier. For interstellar journeys of more than a few decades, e.g. centuries, probes may fail long before they reach their targets. I suspect that even with orientation changes, Breakthrough Starshot must deal with the problem of its chips being rendered inoperative by GCRs rather than by colliding with the ISM.

    I would be interested in hearing from team members about how they intend to deal with that problem (assuming I am correct that GCRs are a problem for their proposed journey times).

    • ole burde December 4, 2017, 16:33

      Silicon based computing is probably not the way to reach long term reliability in space , or even on earth . Many other solutions have been investigated and developed to a certain level , and several of them have important advantages, such as DNA computing , microdots and optical computing ….but the ultimate solution would be to combine several different systems into task-differentiated hiraky : as an example ,microdots when ”printed” on gold might have a thousand year lifetime , and could be the ”safe copy” from which other systems could regenerate damaged code

      • Alex Tolley December 4, 2017, 17:00

        While you can make very robust storage systems, you still need a method to read it back into operating code. If that system isn’t robust, it still fails. It is a bit like carving pictographs on stone. They last 1000s of years, but if the humans who can read it disappear, they become useless.

        Life is perhaps the best example of robust, carbon based computation. If the nematodes and tardigrades survive a voyage to Proxima and can reproduce on arrival, then that would be a start. But they should also be active on te journey too, to prove that some sort of computation can be robust. We know bacteria change quite rapidly on the ISS, so I would be a bit skeptical about those organisms having biological code that is robust to changes. It might need some engineering to make them so.

        • ole burde December 4, 2017, 18:13

          The systems ” to read it back” is exactly the kind of problem where the Breakthrough Initiative could make an important contribution , because nobody else sofar has had a good reason to invest in it …if anybody 50 yeas ago would have told us that bulk information would flow freely and automatcly from optival fibers to cupper to wireles vis satelites and back , we probably would have felt this to be an unnecesary complication ….but today these minor buldingblocks of technology are so cheap and reliable that we almost forget the Magic involved : information flows freely across barriers of a fundamental nature …and so will information Processing , before or later ….but the people who do it first , can channel the solutions toward their ends , in our case long term reliabilty

      • Brett Bellmore December 5, 2017, 22:02

        I rather like integrated, field emission vacuum tubes for long duration radiation resistance. They can be miniaturized to a level similar to transistors, but with much greater resistance to radiation and voltage spikes.

    • Randy Chung, SpaceFab.US December 4, 2017, 23:35

      This solution to the problem of radiation damage to integrated circuits sounds very promising, and not that far off:

    • Jeff Wright December 6, 2017, 17:53

      Something like JIMO needs 1970’s tech on the main bus–with cubesat dispensers.

      A question–wasn’t Oumuamua heading in the general direction of one of the Voyagers? A long shot–I know.

  • Hamilton1 December 4, 2017, 17:45

    There’s an interesting article here about how several of the Pioneer craft were also ‘revived’ after decades of silence. So it’s not just the Voyagers –


    • ljk December 6, 2017, 11:39

      I am glad that Pioneer 10 and 11 are not forgotten, as they are often overshadowed by the more advanced and prolific Voyagers. However, they were true pioneers in being the first to cross through the Main Planetoid Belt, flyby Jupiter and Saturn, and then head out of the Sol system. They cleared the way for their more popular fellow travelers. Those achievements cannot be taken away from them.


  • Brad in Dallas December 4, 2017, 20:33

    The folks at longnow.org have been doing some thinking about engineering things to last millennia. Worth a look.

  • DCM December 5, 2017, 4:16

    Maybe the hypothetical beings who find the Voyager craft will be terrified to learn they aren’t alone. It might upset their whole cosmology and their societies, causing them to invent new and better weapons and militarize.
    Or it could start a kind of cargo cult or flying saucer cult similar to the ones we’ve had.
    Unless they’re so different from us we couldn’t make any sense out of their response.

    • ljk December 6, 2017, 12:00

      You will definitely want to read this short story online here:


      We are going to step out of the door and into the wider Universe, whether it is ready for us or not. And vice versa. I also think our imaginations and fears are quite limited when it comes to what could be out there.

      If you can get ahold of the 1973 book The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective by Carl Sagan, there is a similar humorous story about ETI finding and interpreting the Pioneer Plaque. This includes aliens who look just like the pulsar map and view its design as an incredibly offensive gesture by them.

      You may also like this wonderful program on the Pioneer Plaques:


  • NS December 5, 2017, 4:42

    “pictographs on stone…last 1000s of years, but if the humans who can read it disappear, they become useless.”

    Yes, the ultimate limits on mission longevity may prove to be scientific and cultural rather than technological. I’m not against launching potentially very long-lived space probes, but we should not be surprised if our distant descendants see them as interesting relics rather than scientifically useful instruments. The science of 500 years from now may be even more radically different from ours than ours is from that of 500 years ago. It will be extraordinarily lucky if we are able to guess the sort of data scientists will be interested in that far in the future.

    • ljk December 5, 2017, 11:21

      If we wait for the future to do things better then it will likely never happen.

      Take the Apollo manned lunar missions as a case in point. Sure, their computer systems were so primitive they make the Voyager computers look like HAL 9000, but the point is they got humans to the Moon, something we are still waiting to have happen again since 1972 despite all of our technological advancements.

      • NS December 6, 2017, 5:15

        Your example would be more applicable to my reservations if the Apollo astronauts had been told “By the way, during the trip to the Moon you’re going through a time warp, and the Earth you return to will be 500 years in the future. We don’t know anything about what it’ll be like, but for sure your families, friends, and all of us will be dead. There’s a fair chance nobody will remember you or your mission, that there won’t be any recovery ships waiting when you splash down, and that either trips to the Moon are so common they’re nothing special, or else nobody is interested in the Moon at all. Have a good flight.”

  • ljk December 5, 2017, 11:32

    Beethoven in space

    Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9

    By Alexander Rehding

    December 3rd 2017

    Katie Paterson has always wanted to shoot Beethoven to the moon. In Earth-Moon-Earth (2007) the Scottish conceptual artist translated a performance of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata into Morse code, sent the radio signals to the moon, and recaptured the reflection.

    What came back of the transmission, having traveled 230,000 miles and back, was refracted on the irregularities moon’s crooked surface, and re-translated into a fragmentary and partial “score” of Morse code, which was then re-sonified and performed on a modern player piano. The absences and gaps in the resulting performance are remnants of the music’s impossible journey to the moon and back.

    Full article here:


    To quote:

    Perhaps the most celebrated instance of Beethoven in outer space is on the Golden Record of the Voyager mission that recently celebrated its 40th anniversary and that has left the solar system, on its way to a galaxy far, far away. The Golden Record is not an artwork in the strict sense, but an interstellar mix tape that Carl Sagan and his team curated for the use of extra-terrestrials in 1977. While the Golden Record had nothing to do with the scientific goals of this space mission, it did manage to capture the collective imagination, by humanizing the idea of outer space. While the disc jockeys that put together the Golden Record made an effort at assembling a collection of different musical traditions from across the world, from Japanese gagaku to Louis Armstrong, and from Mexican mariachi to Indian raga, they deviated slightly from their attempts at inclusiveness and balance by allowing a special place for Bach and Beethoven, who represent Western classical music with multiple compositions.

    The record includes Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, as one might expect, but also the Cavatina from the String Quartet op. 130, perhaps a less obvious choice. Apparently, this movement was a favorite of Carl Sagan’s—the intense humanity of this piece, underlined in the famous performance indication beklemmt (stifled, inhibited) for the first violin in the contrasting middle section, makes this piece such an intriguing choice. Music critic Alex Ross called it “a wistful farewell” from earth. But second-guessing intentions behind the inclusion of specific pieces matters less than the fact that there is music traveling to the farthest reaches of the universe, as a sign that we humans exist.

    Why Beethoven? One part of the fascination with Beethoven is certainly related to the centrality of his music in our culture. Even the Voyager mission made two slots available for him, in the extremely limited space on the grooves of the Golden Record that was supposed to represent all of earth’s musical cultures.

    For us earthlings, meanwhile, we know Beethoven so well that we can even restore the original sounds under extreme circumstances: we hear the resonances in the gaps of the moon-reflected Moonshine Sonata and the otherworldly slow sublimity of the Ninth, even where the sounds go beyond what our senses are able to perceive.

    • J. Jason Wentworth December 5, 2017, 23:51

      Carl Sagan and Frank Drake as DJs (disc jockeys)…I *love* it! :-)

  • Bill December 5, 2017, 16:53

    I have often thought the fate of the Voyagers is not to travel endlessly through space but to end up in a future museum brought back to Earth by some intrepid adventurer armed with vastly superior spacefaring technology and ancient computer programs of suspect origin revealing their trajectories.

  • Rod L Pyle December 5, 2017, 21:06

    Paul–a great article, thanks so much for writing it. A fun and thought-provoking read.

    • Paul Gilster December 6, 2017, 9:21

      Thanks, Rod. Always a pleasure to see you here!

  • J. Jason Wentworth December 6, 2017, 0:36

    In connection with Voyager 1’s long-dormant TCM thrusters picking up–in a different firing mode, no less–after 37 years as if they’d last fired just two weeks ago, what Randy Chung and Hamilton1 wrote about above (self-healing transistors and the solar-orbiting Pioneer 6, 7, and 8 probes, respectively) is also of great importance for the development of ultra-long-life interstellar spacecraft. Having corresponded with their program personnel recently, I learned that Pioneers 6 – 8 (Pioneer 9 died in 1983) must be commanded “on” in order to transmit, and on all previous occasions they have responded promptly, with no balking or “hiccups,” just like Voyager 1’s TCM thrusters, and:

    The AO-7 (AMSAT-OSCAR 7) amateur radio satellite (see: http://www.amsat.org/two-way-satellites/ao-7/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMSAT-OSCAR_7 ), which was launched in November 1974, went silent in 1981 when its battery failed, then became operational again in 2002, also carries–along with its other beacons and transponders–a 2304.1 MHz beacon which was never activated, due to a change in international radio frequency licensing, and:

    To collect engineering data on the durability of spacecraft and their subsystems after decades of exposure to the space environment, it would be worthwhile to attempt to contact Pioneers 6 – 8 again (the most recent contact with any of these spacecraft–with Pioneer 6–was made in December 2000 [see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_6,_7,_8,_and_9
    ]), and to activate AO-7’s 2304.1 MHz (13-centimeter band) beacon, to see if they will respond, and–if they do–to ascertain the condition of these spacecraft’s equipment. In the case of AO-7, it should be possible to obtain a special, experimental license to activate and monitor the satellite’s never-before-activated 13-cm band beacon, while NASA’s Deep Space Network stations (and/or other radio telescopes) could be utilized to hail Pioneer 6, 7, and/or 8.

  • ljk December 9, 2017, 19:11

    NASA’s famous Voyager probes nearly failed during their rocket launches — here’s what went terribly wrong

    Dave Mosher

    Published 12:13 pm, Wednesday, December 6, 2017


  • ljk December 12, 2017, 15:32

    A celebration of the Voyager Golden Record in its 40th year…


  • ljk December 13, 2017, 12:52

    WeTransfer Announces A Message from Earth: An Online Exhibition with Newly-Commissioned Work, Inspired by The Voyager Golden Record

    To Launch on December 12 on https://amessagefrom.earth

    Includes Exclusive Contributions From Gilles Peterson, Wanda Díaz Merced, Aspen Matis, S U R V I V E, Lawrence Krauss, Fatima Al Qadiri, Oneohtrix Point Never and More…


    LOS ANGELES, Dec. 12, 2017 /PRNewswire/ —

    “We cast this message into the cosmos…a present from a small distant world. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.” – President Jimmy Carter, on the Voyager Golden Record

    In celebration of the 40th anniversary of The Golden Record project, WeTransfer has partnered with Stink Studios, Gilles Peterson, Oneohtrix Point Never, S U R V I V E, Wanda Diaz Merced and more to present “A Message from Earth.”

    This interactive exhibition of specially-commissioned music, film, art and literature pays tribute to the ambitious, optimistic spirit of the original Golden Record. 40 years ago, a group led by astronomer Carl Sagan set themselves a seemingly impossible challenge – to sum up what it means to be human, and capture these images, sounds, music and greetings on two Golden Records. These were placed aboard NASA’s Voyager I and II, two spacecraft blasted into space to go further than anything man-made had ever gone before. The records were intended as a message from Earth for any extraterrestrial life that might find them.

    The unique online exhibition “A Message from Earth” represents a collage of the contemporary human condition, and features new and exclusive pieces from leading artists, musicians, photographers, authors, and scientists. Their works are commissioned to celebrate themes of hope, determination, and goodwill, are inspired by the original project. The exhibition’s intention is to relay a message of goodwill and encourage further exploration while raising awareness and funding for Astronomers without Borders, the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University, and the SETI Institute. WeTransfer is providing $10,000 grants to each institution to initiate public donations, and the project will be commemorated in a $15 limited edition zine with 100% of generated revenues going to the non-profits above.

    “WeTransfer came from the creative community, and as a company we embrace projects like the Voyager Golden Record to inspire us. We’ve collaborated with 40 individuals and organizations from over 20 countries to put this together, and we’re humbled by the people we’ve been able to work with,” says Stephen Canfield, WeTransfer’s VP of Marketing.

    “We’ve had a strong commitment to arts and sciences since 2009, and this felt like a natural next step for us – closely collaborating with amazing people to tell a story that’s inspired so many. The Voyager Golden Record shows what we can do when we come together to create and share something bigger than us, and that feels like a welcome message in 2017. We hope others feel the same, and that we can use this to raise funding for more exploration and selfless acts of cultural diplomacy in the years to come.”

  • ljk December 18, 2017, 15:38

    The Voyager Golden Records: Greetings from the Beleaguered but Hopeful Humans of Planet Earth


    To quote:

    The Kickstarter proved so successful, says Pescovitz, that the Ozma duo rolled a slightly-modified version into wider production. “For us, the Kickstarter was a way to tell the story, and have pre-orders, get a sense of how many people were actually interested in this thing. Even when Carl Sagan and the others were hoping it would get released, the record labels were facing two challenges. One, they didn’t know what the audience would be, and two, it was a copyright nightmare.

    “It absolutely blew our mind how much the story of the record resonated, once word got out. It’s as relevant now as it was 40 years ago, and I think it’s because it embodies a sense of hope and optimism, and people are jonesing for that right now.”

    Ferris recalls having lunch with Pescovitz a few years before the record’s release. “He told me of his idea. I said that others had come up short but he certainly could try and might well succeed. I stressed the importance of retrieving and working from the master, rather than trying to recreate the record from other materials.” Ferris, a key player in the Golden Record’s format and sound, wanted Earth ears to hear what extraterrestrial ears (or the equivalent) would experience.

    The 116 images cover mathematics, science, human anatomy, human culture, various Earth creatures and places. The sound-to-photo signals from the actual LPs weren’t included because, Pescovitz admits, “We didn’t think it was a particularly pleasant listening experience.”

    Of all the music included on the LP, Pescovitz’s favorite is “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.” Because, he says, “it’s so deeply haunting. To me that is the soundtrack of the Voyager probes traveling through the blackness of space. Looking like they’re not moving even though they’re moving at incredible speeds. The feeling of looking up at the night sky and imagining that.”

  • ljk December 18, 2017, 15:42

    First we Sent Voyager 1, now we’ve Launched Asgardia, a Space Kingdom:


  • ljk December 18, 2017, 15:46

    WeTransfer updates Voyager’s golden records in new campaign

    by Zoë Beery

    December 15, 2017

    In 1978 [1977, actually], as NASA prepared to launch the Voyager deep space probes, beloved astronomer Carl Sagan was busy helped the agency decide how to share a little bit of life on Earth with any aliens the vessels might encounter. He settled on an array of images, sounds and wave recordings that depicted earth artifacts and ideas both mundane and extraordinary. They were recorded onto a pair of golden discs, with one aboard each probe.

    This week, in honor of Voyager’s 40-year anniversary, WeTransfer and Stink Studios launched “A Message From Earth,” a site serving as a contemporary answer to Sagan’s project. With newly-commissioned contributions from 40 artists, musicians and scientists hailing from over 20 countries, the collection is a knowingly incomplete but thoughtfully considered sample of what humankind has to offer in 2017.

    “WeTransfer wanted to celebrate what it means to be human and have an optimistic spirit, and they were looking for a partner to bring everything together” said Yago Moravia, a CD at Stink. “Our challenge was to build a modular site that will accommodate any [type of media] and really communicate that message.”

    Full article here:


    To quote:

    “We spent a lot of time figuring out how to make it a celebration instead of a recreation,” Fearnley said. “We needed to capture all the special nuances and figure out what the picture looks like when the puzzle is all put together.”

    Balancing the parts with the whole was another challenge for the Stink team–Fearnley and Moravia likened the site to an art gallery or a museum, which shows individual pieces but still has an overarching point of view. Fearnley drew on his background in magazine art direction to pull it off, but also drew heavy inspiration from the original mission of the NASA project. “There’s a sense of wonder, hopefulness, and whimsy in making an homage to Carl Sagan,” he said.

    Voyager’s golden records are now farther away from Earth than any human-made object, and while “A Message from Earth” is distinctly planet-bound, it still has a mission beyond offering a constellation of human appreciation and artistry. In a time of growing uncertainty and fear, the site is working to raise awareness and funds for the sorts of projects that are spiritual successors to the golden records: SETI, an umbrella term for organizations that search for extraterrestrial intelligence; the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University, which searches for habitable planets outside our solar system; and Astronomers Without Borders, which brings astronomy and scientific goodwill to developing countries.

  • ljk January 4, 2018, 14:21

    The Voyager probes as a way to help guide humanity through its troubles:


  • ljk January 31, 2018, 11:33

    Since when is promoting the Voyager Interstellar Record and its contents a bad thing? And making copies of these records is somehow polluting the planet? I have nothing good to say in regards to this subject, which is a pollutant of its own kind.


  • ljk February 1, 2018, 11:48

    Reprint of NASA’s Golden Record Takes Home a Grammy

    By Calla Cofield, Space.com Senior Writer | January 31, 2018 12:46 pm ET

    A vinyl reprint of the Voyager Golden Record, which carries a greeting for extraterrestrials beyond the solar system, won a Grammy Award this past Sunday (Jan. 28).

    The creators of the vinyl reprint took home the award for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package. Produced by Ozma Records, the $98 special box set includes three gold-colored vinyl records pressed with the original Golden Record recording.

    Copies of the original Golden Record launched aboard the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes, which were both scheduled to eventually travel beyond Earth’s solar system. In case an intelligent alien species were to stumble upon one of those probes, NASA commissioned a group of people to create a greeting from humanity. Voyager 1 is believed to have exited the solar system in 2012, and Voyager 2 is in a boundary region called the “heliosheath.”

    Full article here:


  • ljk February 12, 2018, 11:39

    California Chamber Orchestra salutes Voyager I and its ‘Golden Record’

    By Newsroom on February 11, 2018·

    TEMECULA – When Longfellow said that “music is the universal language of mankind,” he may or may not have been the first to make that observation. But just over 40 years ago, NASA reaffirmed it when they launched the Voyager I probe into the universe, carrying the famous “golden record” of the sounds of planet Earth.

    The California Chamber Orchestra will salute Voyager I Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Old Town Temecula Community Theater with its concert, “Out of This World.” The program includes two of the pieces represented on that famous craft: Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F and the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. The orchestra will also perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

    “I think that at some level, we’re all fascinated by the exploration of outer space,” Dana Zimbric, artistic director and conductor of the California Chamber Orchestra, said. “The story of Voyager I is so incredibly inspiring, especially when you consider that through the efforts of Carl Sagan and others, the spacecraft carries examples of music to represent humanity to those who may encounter it.”

    Full article here:


  • ljk February 19, 2018, 10:32

    Home listening: Voyager’s Golden Record; RNCM brass band festival

    Launched into space in 1977, this ‘present from a small distant world’ is a time capsule to treasure.

    Classical music

    Home Listening
    Home listening: Voyager’s Golden Record; RNCM brass band festival

    Launched into space in 1977, this ‘present from a small distant world’ is a time capsule to treasure.

    Fiona Maddocks

    Sun 18 Feb 2018 02.00 EST

    A soundtrack of human existence: that was the ambition of the fabled Voyager Golden Record, released in 1977 (overseen by Carl Sagan), to coincide with Nasa’s Voyager space probe. The original golden vinyl disc is somewhere aboard a spaceship 13bn miles away. It’s now easier to get. For the first time, you can have your own version, as a glamorous three-LP box set (or two CDs) complete with a 96-page book, the entire package deserving its recent Grammy.

    Full article here:


    To quote:

    The classical music inclusions remain spot on, but the requirement of an intermediary creates a period feel: so Arthur Grumiaux plays Bach (from the Partita for Solo Violin No 3 in E major) without awareness of brisk, period instrument style. Otto Klemperer conducts Beethoven’s Fifth with magisterial weightiness, yet to modern ears his approach sounds more historic than Beethoven himself. Pianist Glenn Gould (from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book II) was a perceptive choice, given his continuing cult legacy 25 years after his death. The Golden Voyager is as strange, generous and quixotic as it is downright crazy. The world seemed simpler then.

  • ljk February 26, 2018, 11:10


    California Chamber Orchestra will reach for the stars this weekend

    By Sherli Leonard | sleonard32@verizon.net | Orange County Register

    PUBLISHED: February 23, 2018 at 7:12 am | UPDATED: February 23, 2018 at 10:06 am

    California Chamber Orchestra will present a concert Saturday with music that conductor Dana Zimbric describes as “out of this world.”

    The orchestra will be performing selections that were included on the “golden record,” the disc that was loaded onto the Voyager I when it was launched into space in 1977. That record was created to carry examples of music to represent humanity to whomever might encounter the Voyager somewhere in space, somewhere in time.

    Renowned scientist Carl Sagan selected the music for the trip into space.

    “When Carl Sagan was choosing the music for the record, he considered what we would want other beings to know about us on Earth,” Zimbric said. “This concert is a salute to Voyager 1, which has now, after 40 years, entered interstellar space, more than 13 billion miles away from our sun. Sagan believed the golden record — actually made of gold — should contain music that reflected a time capsule of humanity. Now, that music is farther out in space than any other human-made item.”

    The orchestra will perform two of the pieces on the record: J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 and the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

    “The Brandenburg Concerto is an amazing piece of music, with a very difficult trumpet solo,” Zimbric said. “We are very fortunate to have Calvin Price, principal trumpet of San Diego Symphony, join us for this concert.”

    The orchestra also will perform the complete Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

    “While this wasn’t one of the pieces of music included on the golden record, it represents another element of Beethoven, the hopeful, nature-connected composer, while the Symphony No. 5 reflects the more brooding side,” he added.

    “Besides that, this is the work that would have been included if Dana could have chosen the music. It’s an incredible symphony.”

    Fresh from its Carnegie Hall debut, Trio Céleste, a piano trio headquartered in Southern California, will join the orchestra for a performance of Paul Dooley’s Concerto Grosso for piano trio and strings.

    “This will be the West Coast premiere of this piece,” said Zimbric. “Dooley describes this piece as neo-Baroque music inspired by composers Handel and Scarlatti. It has the same musical idea as Bach’s concerti, with an interesting group of soloists performing with a string ensemble. Our audience will be able to see the parallels with the Baroque composers. So, in our way, we are showing how the music of the past is tied to the music of today.

    “I think, at some level, we’re all fascinated by the exploration of outer space, and the story of Voyager I is incredibly inspiring,” Zimbric added. “It is still sending messages back to Earth and will keep doing that for another five years or so. We are so fortunate to be able to present this tribute and celebrate the universal language of mankind, music.”

    The concert will be presented as part of the Temecula Presents Classical Series at the Old Town Temecula Community Theater.

    California Chamber Orchestra
    When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
    Where: Old Town Temecula Community Theater, 42051 Main St., Temecula
    Tickets: $35 adults, $30 seniors, $10 students; children 10 and younger free with an adult
    Information: 866-653-8696, http://www.CalChamberOrchestra.org

  • ljk February 28, 2018, 17:53

    New Horizons explains why it is so much better suited to explore the Kuiper Belt than the Voyagers:


    And for good measure, a blog post from 2014 on why NH was also better for exploring Pluto than the Voyagers, even though Pluto was on the original Grand Tour plan and Voyager would have been able to image all of Pluto in detail and not just one hemisphere as NH was forced to in 2015:


    And, oh yeah, we would have seen what Pluto looked like in 1986 so that if NASA did decide to follow up with New Horizons, we would have had that much more information to fine tune the NH mission with and since we now know the surface of Pluto is not permanently frozen solid, we could have seen what had changed in the intervening decades and learned that much more about the system.

    Of course if our society really had its priorities straight, we would already either have a Pluto probe orbiting it and depositing landers or on its way out there.



  • ljk March 1, 2018, 11:53

    Planetary Radio • February 28, 2018

    Experience A Message From Earth – Inspired by the Voyager Golden Record

    It has been 40 years since Carl Sagan and others shared the best of humanity with the stars. A new online multimedia project has been created as a 21st century homage to the Golden Record. We visit with two of its creators, Stephen Canfield of WeTransfer, and Jacinte Faria of Stink Studios.



  • ljk March 1, 2018, 11:58

    Probably among the most famous pieces of music preserved on the Voyager Interstellar Record, and that is saying a lot:



  • ljk March 27, 2018, 13:17

    Bach, to the Future: How the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Played Music NASA Sent to Space

    The Meyerson’s stage became a baroque parlor-room jam for Saturday’s performance of the Brandenburg Concertos.

    By Jesse Chandler

    Published in Arts & Entertainment

    March 26, 2018 1:59 pm

    Imagine a spacecraft tearing from Earth at about 40,000 miles an hour. Thousands of years pass. An extra-terrestrial being from some distant galaxy happens upon this spacecraft, and finds a relic on board, a disc their superior intelligence registers as a vinyl record. After deciphering instructions for how to play an LP— much like decoding hieroglyphs on the wall of a cave— the creature drops the needle on side A.

    They are greeted in 55 languages, and with various sounds of Earth: whale songs, a baby crying and waves breaking against the shore. Then comes the trumpet. The triumphant fanfare of Movement I from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 fills the ship. This alien can hear sounds, but it has not heard anything like this. How would they react to a first encounter with music, humanity’s greatest gift to itself?

    This album, The Golden Record, exists. NASA sent it into space aboard Voyager 1 and 2 as a kind of time capsule. Light in the Attic recently reissued and beautifully packaged the compilation. With the Brandenburg excerpt, the first piece of music on The Golden Record, curators Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan make a statement.

    Here we are.


  • ljk March 30, 2018, 10:33

    Some satellites will last for billions of years, while others do not even make it to one year:


    To quote:

    The Humanity Star, launched in January by New Zealand company Rocket Lab, met its end earlier than planned, after just a few weeks of circling the globe. On March 23, The New Zealand Herald reported the hollow geodesic sphere was believed to have burned up in the atmosphere earlier that morning. The satellite was originally intended to last until October, orbiting every 90 minutes or so and providing a beacon to encourage people across the world to look up and enjoy the night sky.

    Why did it deorbit so early? It turns out that because the Humanity Star was hollow, its low mass compared with its larger surface area caused it to experience more drag than anticipated, particularly in its already low-Earth orbit. That orbit was intentionally designed to decay over the course of months, but due to the larger-than-expected drag, the satellite dropped back to Earth much more quickly.

    On the Humanity Star website, Rocket Lab’s CEO and founder Peter Beck wrote, “While the Humanity Star was a brief moment in human history, I hope the conversations and ideas it sparked around the world will continue to be explored. These are the conversations that will play a part in shaping how we collectively manage our planet and work together to solve the challenges facing us all.”

  • ljk April 6, 2018, 10:04


    The Voyager Golden Record comes to London

    Written by Anton Spice

    Published on April 5, 2018

    Presented by Ozma Records’ David Pescovitz at the Sonos London Store.

    Forty one years since it was launched towards the outer reaches of our galaxy on-board the Voyager Space Craft, the rarest record in the universe is touching down in London.

    Reissued for the first time off the back of a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, the Voyager Golden Record is finally available to the public. To mark the occasion, Ozma Records co-founder and co-producer with Timothy Daly and Lawrence Azerrad, David Pescovitz will present the story of the extraordinary, extraterrestrial project.

    Filled with the sounds of Earth – from greetings in different languages, to recordings of dogs barking and people kissing – the record is also something of a time capsule for mankind’s greatest music, from Bach to Chuck Berry, as selected by a team at NASA led by star-gazing visionary Carl Sagan.

    The presentation will also feature playbacks of the record via the Sonos Connect and Connect:Amp set-up, which hooks up your turntable to the rest of your home system with the kind of precision NASA can only dream of.

    The Voyager Golden Record: A Journey Through Space and Time takes place at Sonos Store London on Tuesday 17th April. Sign-up to for the event here.

  • ljk April 6, 2018, 10:12

    Steering the Voyager Golden Record back to Earth

    Written by Anton Spice

    Published on October 19, 2016

    David Pescovitz and the team are on a mission.

    The Voyager Golden Records are without doubt the rarest records in the universe. Pressed onto gold-plated copper phonograph discs and cut at 16 1/3 rpm, they are the ultimate human time capsules, containing music, field recordings, photos and an alien-friendly DIY turntable kit to play it back. Launched in 1977, they are currently billions of miles from Earth on the Voyager I and II spacecrafts, drifting further and further from your record collection. By the time you finish this article, they’ll be roughly another 20,000 km further away.

    You may never get your hands on an original – Carl Sagan who masterminded with project with NASA didn’t even get a copy – but, thanks to David Pescovitz, Timothy Daly, and Lawrence Azerrad, you can now experience it on vinyl for the first time.

    Seven years old when the Voyager spacecraft left Earth, David has, like practically every other record collector we’ve spoken to, been enthralled by the artistic, scientific and downright utopian potential of the Voyager Golden Record. A phonograph record, included alongside the most cutting edge technology of the day, as a message of hope from Earth to unknown extra-terrestrial civilisations, or as the inscription on the record reads: “To the makers of music – all worlds, all times.”

    Full article here:


    To quote:

    Aside from all the people who you’ve included in the project, it feels like a lot of people have quite a personal connection with the Voyager Golden Record story…

    I think so, and I think it’s because it lies at the intersection of science, art and music as a way to spark the imagination and give people a sense of hope and possibility and a little bit of optimism. And I think that quite honestly, we’re jonesing for a dose of hope and optimism right about now.

    Do you have any favourite recordings from the collection? pieces the resonate particularly?

    Totally. So there’s two. One is Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Dark Was The Night’, which is a vocal piece but it’s non-lyrical and it has his unusual slide guitar. That piece is so haunting and so moving, it has always meant a lot to me. And also there’s the Sounds of Earth, which is a 12-minute audio poem which Ann Druyan created with the support of other committee members. That is field recordings including the likes of insects and birds, a baby and mother and a kiss and it’s montaged together in what is almost like a piece of avant-garde tape music. That’s always been a fantastic piece for me.

    And there’s really interesting stories too. They had wanted The Beatles’ ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and Tim Ferris reached out to The Beatles who were all living at the time and they were all very excited about it. But it turned out the label owned the copyright of the song and as I understand wanted a lot of money to include it and the project was basically done on a shoestring so it sadly wasn’t included.

    My partner on this Tim Daly is like a walking encyclopaedia of music. He sees the Voyager Golden Records as almost the first world music compilation, before “world music” was a genre. And I think as that it’s a fantastic portal to musics of other cultures and other places and other times. I’m hoping when people hear this as a compilation, and as a collection of music it will spur them to explore the kind of musics that are represented there more deeply.

    And the label you’ve set up for this end is Ozma Records…

    It’s worth mentioning the name. So Ozma is the Princess of Oz from the Wizard of Oz books. That’s the first reference. But the second reference is connected to Frank Drake, who is a pioneer in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and was on the Voyager Golden Record committee. In fact he’s the one who came up with the idea of sending a phonograph record. In the 1960s he launched one of the first scientific efforts to search for extraterrestrial intelligence using radio-telescopes and that was called Project Ozma, named after Princess Ozma. So we wanted to honour him and use that name. Our hope is to release future records that lie at the intersection of science and art and music too, that also instill a sense of wonder.

  • ljk April 10, 2018, 10:03

    On seeing the Earth for the first time

    What would it be like to finally be able to see the Earth from the outside, as a world floating in the darkness of space? In an essay excerpted from his new book, Christopher Potter discusses those efforts to see the Earth as it truly is, from space.


    Review: The Earth Gazers

    Images of the Earth from space are commonplace today, but a half-century ago those first views of the Earth as a sphere in the void stunned society. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines imagery from space within the context of a history of spaceflight.