Saturday, January 4, 2014

Something to think about

Voyager 1 space probe's golden record
As we begin the New Year, the arbitrary start of another trip around the sun for planet earth, I am reminded of a newspaper article I read back in September when we were in Wisconsin visiting family.

In the article, NASA announced that in August 2012, the Voyager 1 space probe had flown beyond the heliopause (the limit of the sun's solar wind) and entered interstellar space.

Voyager 1 was launched about 35 years ago, on September 5, 1977, and has been traveling at almost 38,000 miles per hour for that entire time. It is more than 12 billion miles from the sun now.

To put this in perspective, the article stated that in order to reach the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, located 4.24 light years from the sun, Voyager 1 would need to continue at its present speed for another 40,000 years. Yes, 40,000 years! I looked up at my father across the breakfast table to confirm that he had read the article. "Forty thousand years!" I said. He chuckled and said, "Humankind will be long gone by then!"

I think he's probably right. We are making our planet unlivable at a furious rate, and there's nowhere else to go. Mars? It's already what the earth will eventually become. We are stuck here with the mess we've created.

There's a golden record aboard Voyager 1 containing a wealth of audio and visual information about life on earth. If the record is ever discovered by intelligent life, it will serve not as an invitation to come visit but as a relic of what once was.

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