Cornell celebrates Voyager missions with panel, exhibit

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Daryl Lovell

The cover of the Golden Record contains the diagram and scientific explanation on how to play it.

Only one human-touched object has ever entered interstellar space: NASA’s Voyager 1, bearing with it greetings to extraterrestrials in the form of a Golden Record. The university will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Voyagers 1 and 2 and Cornell’s central role in the missions and the Golden Record in a weekend of events beginning Oct. 19. All events are free, and the public is invited.

“40 Years of Cosmic Discovery: Celebrating the Voyager Missions and Humanity’s Message to Space” begins with a panel at 8 p.m. Oct. 19 in Bailey Hall, introduced by Cornell Provost Michael Kotlikoff, and featuring people who worked on the mission:

  • Ann Druyan, Emmy- and Peabody-award winning writer/producer/director and creative director of NASA’s Voyager Interstellar Message;
  • Frank Drake, chairman emeritus, SETI Institute and creator of the Drake Equation;
  • Steve Squyres, Cornell’s James A. Weeks Professor and principal investigator of the Mars Exploration Rovers mission;
  • Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor of astronomy and director of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute; and
  • Jonathan Lunine, the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science.

One of the handful of Golden Record covers that remain on Earth will be featured in a special exhibit at Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, courtesy of Ann Druyan – it has never before been on public display. The multi-media exhibit will include images and sounds from the Golden Record, as well as the original book by Isaac Newton that was photographed for the Golden Record and a first-edition, signed copy of Carl Sagan’s “Murmurs of Earth.” A copy of the Voyager Golden Record boxed set, newly issued by Ozma Records and donated by producers Timothy Daly and David Pescovitz, will also be on display. The free exhibit will be open on Thursday, Oct. 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, Oct. 20 from 9 a.m. to 5 pm, and Saturday, Oct. 21 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., on level 2B, Kroch Library.

“Unafraid of the Dark,” the series finale of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” that features the Voyager mission, will screen Oct. 20 at 4:45 p.m. at Cornell Cinema and will be introduced by Andrew Hicks, assistant professor of music. After the film Druyan, producer, director and co-writer of the episode, and David Pescovitz, co-founder of Ozma Records, issuer of the Golden Record boxed set, and designer Lawrence Azerrad will offer reflections and answer questions.

NASA Voyagers 1 and 2 were launched in 1977 from Cape Canaveral to explore the solar system. They are the only spacecraft to have visited Uranus and Neptune. The gravitational assist from Jupiter that slingshot the Voyagers on the first reconnaissance of the outer solar system will propel them throughout the Milky Way for the next several billion years. Each Voyager bears a complex message affixed to its side in the form of the Golden Record, a 12-inch gold-covered copper record containing greetings, images of life on Earth, world music and other sounds of this planet. They have a shelf life of 1 billion to 5 billion years.

“40 Years of Cosmic Discovery” is sponsored by the Department of Astronomy, the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Carl Sagan Institute, which conducts an interdisciplinary search for life in the universe.


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