Jimmy Carter’s letter to the extraterrestrial civilizations aboard the Voyager spacecraft
Launched in 1977, the Voyager spacecraft represent one of humanity’s most ambitious endeavors to explore the cosmos and communicate with potential extraterrestrial civilizations.
These interstellar messengers carry with them the Golden Record, a time capsule intended to portray the diversity and culture of Earth through sounds, images, music, and scientific data.
Among the contents of this cosmic message is a letter from then-President Jimmy Carter, encapsulating the spirit of peace and hope with which Voyager was sent on its journey.
The Voyager missions, consisting of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, were designed to take advantage of a rare planetary alignment to explore the outer planets and then continue on to the edges of our solar system and beyond. Their trajectory and speed were meticulously calculated to carry them past Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, collecting unprecedented data and images of these distant worlds and their moons.
The inclusion of the Golden Record, however, imbued the Voyager spacecraft with a mission beyond mere scientific inquiry. This record was Earth’s greeting card to the universe, an attempt to communicate the essence of our world and its inhabitants to any extraterrestrial intelligence that might encounter the spacecraft. The record contains greetings in 55 languages, natural sounds of Earth, a selection of music from various cultures and eras, and 116 images depicting life and landscapes on our planet.
President Carter’s letter on the Golden Record serves as a poignant reflection of humanity’s aspirations and the shared dreams of exploring the vast universe. “We cast this message into the cosmos,” Carter wrote, symbolizing the leap of faith and the hopeful gesture of reaching out to unknown civilizations across the stars. His message was clear: Earth was ready to join a community of galactic civilizations, should it exist, in a spirit of friendship and mutual discovery.
Voyager’s scientific achievements are unparalleled. Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to enter interstellar space in 2012, with Voyager 2 following suit in 2018. Their journey has vastly expanded our understanding of the outer planets, their moons, and the heliosphere—the bubble-like region of space dominated by the solar wind and the sun’s magnetic field.
Beyond their scientific payloads, the Voyager spacecraft stand as symbols of human curiosity, resilience, and the unending quest for knowledge. They carry with them the hopes and dreams of Earth’s inhabitants, encapsulated in the Golden Record and President Carter’s message of peace. As they continue their journey through the cosmos, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 remain beacons of humanity’s desire to explore the unknown and connect with the vast universe that surrounds us.