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You, Too, Could Own a Copy of the Voyager Golden Record

Ozma records is producing a box set of the album sent into the cosmos to reach out to potential extraterrestrial life

(Ozma Records)
smithsonian.com

Record collectors shell out tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for rare discs by the Beatles or early blues artists. However, there’s one disc many collectors (and every space nerds) covets but will never get their hands on: the Golden Record. Now, a group of science enthusiasts and vinyl aficionados have teamed up to make a version of the disc available to the masses.

In 1977, 12-inch gold-plated copper discs were placed aboard the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes. The records were housed in an aluminum sleeve bearing instructions on how to play them and included a needle and a cartridge. The contents, curated by a committee headed by astronomer Carl Sagan, include 115 encoded analog images from Earth, natural sounds like birds, whales, and a baby’s cry, music by Bach, Beethoven, and Chuck Berry, greetings in 55 languages and written messages from then-President Jimmy Carter and U.N. General Secretary Kurt Waldheim.

“The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space,” Sagan noted. “But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet."

According to Megan Molteni at Wired, NASA pressed a dozen of the records, ten of which were distributed to NASA facilities. The other two are 13 billion miles from Earth on Voyager 1 and 2. Despite his requests, even Carl Sagan never received a copy. Just getting a glimpse of a Golden Record is difficult, reports Kenneth Chang for The New York Times. A copy of the record's aluminum cover is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The record itself is can be viewed in an auditorium at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, which is open during public lectures.

That’s why the group calling itself Ozma Records decided to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Voyager launches by reissuing the Golden Record as a box set. Last week, they listed their project on Kickstarter with a goal of raising $198,000 to produce the facsimile. The project blasted past that goal in just two days and at last count received pledges worth $658,000 from almost 5,300 backers.

The $98 reissue isn’t exactly the same as the Voyager disks. For one thing, it’s pressed from yellow vinyl, not actual copper and gold, Chang reports. It will come on 3 LPs, which are designed to be played at 33 rpm, versus the original which plays at 16.5 rpm to accommodate all the photos, messages and 90 minutes of music on a single disc. The box set will also include a hardbound book about the history and production of the record along with printed photos of the images included on the disk. An MP3 version of the audio will also be available for $15.

“When you’re seven years old, and you hear about a group of people creating messages for possible extraterrestrial intelligence,” Ozma Records' David Pescovitz, managing partner at Boing Boing and research director at Institute for the Future, tells Chang, “that sparks the imagination. The idea always stuck with me.”

In 1978, Sagan and his colleagues published Murmurs of the Earth, the story of the Golden Record’s creation, which included a track list from the record. A 1992 CD-ROM of the book was reissued including a digital re-creation of the Golden Record. But this is the first time the public has had access to the recording in the format that an alien civilization may encounter it. The production team is trying to keep the disks as close to the original as possible, and are working with science writer Timothy Ferris, who produced the original, to remaster the recordings.

“The thinking on the original was so genius that who am I to change anything about it, you know?” experienced album designer Lawrence Azerrad, who is curating the album packaging tells Molteni. “It’d be like listening to Mozart and saying, ‘Oh I think that bridge was a little fast.’ This is an awesome snapshot of who we are as the human race, and we want all of that to just sing and be as pure as possible.”

The recently acquired permissions to publish the music on the collection and expects to ship the box sets sometime during 2017, Voyager’s anniversary year.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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