Voyager probes to receive humanity's final message to the cosmos before contact lost

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft. © NASA
What would you tell aliens about Earth and humanity given the chance? A campaign has been launched inviting submissions for a short message to be sent millions of miles into space to the Voyager probes, in the hope that intelligent life may someday stumble upon it.

Devised by Professor Christopher Riley from the University of Lincoln’s School of Film and Media, the campaign seeks to add to the collection of “golden records” currently aboard the Voyager 1 and 2 probes.

The “golden records” contain music, messages, sounds and pictures and are designed to provide a snapshot of the human race – a time capsule set adrift for anyone, or anything, to discover.

However, Riley is concerned the cultural material currently stashed aboard the probes is almost 40 years out of date, having been dispatched at launch in 1977.

The probes were launched with the intention of exploring the farthest reaches of Earth’s solar system. Now, as they reach the outer edge of the planetary group, their on-board electricity supply is running out. Scientists are expected to lose contact with the probes in 2,920 days.

They will, however, continue to drift through space for another billion years. Riley hopes they carry one final message from the human race before slipping beyond its grasp.

“Before the Voyagers power down, why not add one final message from planet Earth, as a digital postscript to these most remarkable time capsules of humanity? There’s really no reason why a message can’t be written by an impartial representative from the human race, so we’re inviting suggestions from anyone who would like to contribute a thought,” Riley told Sky News.

“We’re inviting NASA to transmit a final message from humanity to the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft and we’d like you and your friends to contribute a suggestion of what it should say,” he said.

Once a message has been chosen, Riley will invite NASA to send the message to the probes.

On its website, the campaign admits: “It is very unlikely that the Voyagers will ever be intercepted by another space faring civilization.

“Results from the SETI program, which has searched for signs of intelligence technological civilizations in our galaxy for the last 50 years or more now suggest that such intelligent technological life is probably quite rare.

“But should they ever be found, and the Golden Record decoded and interpreted, then it’s possible that their computer memories might also be able to be read by such smart and resourceful enough beings.”