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A message for extraterrestrial life.

The Pioneer plaques are a pair of gold-anodized aluminium plaques which were placed on board the 1972 Pioneer 10 and 1973 Pioneer 11 spacecraft, featuring a pictorial message, in case either Pioneer 10 or 11 are intercepted by extraterrestrial life. The plaques show the nude figures of a human male and female along with several symbols that are designed to provide information about the origin of the spacecraft.

The Pioneer spacecraft were the first human-built objects to leave the Solar System. The plaques were attached to the spacecraft’s antenna support struts in a position that would shield them from erosion by stellar dust.

The Voyager Golden Record, a much more complex and detailed message using (then) state-of-the-art media, was attached to the Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977.

The Voyager Golden Records are phonograph records which were included aboard both Voyager spacecraft, which were launched in 1977. They contain sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or for future humans, who may find them. The Voyager spacecraft are not heading towards any particular star, but Voyager 1 will be within 1.6 light years of the star AC+79 3888 in the Ophiuchus constellation in about 40,000 years.

As the probes are extremely small compared to the vastness of interstellar space, the probability of a space faring civilization encountering them is very small, especially since the probes will eventually stop emitting any kind of electromagnetic radiation. If they are ever found by an alien species, it will most likely be far in the future as the nearest star on Voyager 1’s trajectory will only be reached in 40,000 years.

Carl Sagan noted that “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.” Thus the record is best seen as a time capsule or a symbolic statement rather than a serious attempt to communicate with extraterrestrial life.

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