I was intrigued to hear that a legacy disc of 100 pictures from our lives on plant Earth is to be attached to a communications satellite which will be placed in such a high orbit that it should orbit the Earth until such time as our Sun expands and destroys our planet (five billion years apparently.Put it in your diary).
It is hoped that aliens will find this before that time but when we may (may?) have by already become extinct as a species. The choice of pictures is curious and by no means takes into account how alien eyes may interpret what they are seeing (will they get irony?). Let alone how they’ll find the disc attached to what may be one of very many pieces of legacy space junk surrounding the Earth.
The most famous ‘this is us’ disc was tacked to the Voyager space craft in the late 70’s. These spacecraft are only now approaching the outer edges of our own solar system and the the disc is basically an analogue audio disc with a number of analogue still TV pictures crowbarred in. We even supplied a stylus with which to play the disc back (but not the player?).
The idea of sending our future redundant technology into space and which may or may not be decodable by alien eyes amuses me. Is it vanity? Or our desire to carve a kind of ‘we woz here’ on one of our latest toys in the hope that somebody someday will be impressed,”Hey they looked like a funky bunch. Too bad we never got to meet up and compare fashion tips”.
Maybe we’re trying to overcome that nagging sense of nihilism inside us that tells us our time on this planet is probably not a long one and there may not have been any real point other than the sublime delight of a baked potato swimming in butter on a cold winter night and stopping the cats from having everything their way.
So even if we do all extinguish ourselves in a series of global riots caused by a shortage of raw materials that prohibits the creation of yet more consumer gadgets and suddenly realising that only three people left on the planet could actually afford to buy a loaf of bread to share between them it will all be just that bit less pointless if ET picks up one of our curious postcards from a dying civilisation at some point in the future and validates our brief existence. If only by raising a glass to us, passing a wry and wistful alien smile (hard to spot I’m told) at the evidence of yet another culture that crashed and burned in the blink of a cosmic eye. They may decide that any civilisation that made electric toasters in a range of different colours was one worth finding out a bit more about.
A future final status update to the cosmos?