The rarest records in the universe are made of gold-plated copper. They are the farthest human-made objects in the universe, at 11.7 billion and 9 billion miles from Earth respectively, along with the two Voyager spacecraft that carry them deeper into space every day. Filled with an audio sampling of Earth's distinctive sounds, as well as 115 images of life on our planet, these records—launched in 1977 and known as the Voyager Golden Records—were never meant for human ears. They were made to be heard by interstellar aliens, billions of years from now.
But thanks to a new Kickstarter, you can finally own a copy for yourself. Produced by the new record label Ozma Records, this version isn't made of quite so rare a material. Instead of actual gold, this "Golden Record" is more of a shiny yellow. But otherwise, it contains all of the material of the original, and better yet, you don't need to catch up to Voyager 1 on your Jefferson Starship to own it.
The contents of the original Voyager Golden Record were selected for NASA with the help of turtlenecked astronomer Carl Sagan of Cosmos fame. He spent over a year leading a committee with the goal of "bottling" the Earthling experience, then casting it out into the cosmos on the back of NASA's then-new spacecrafts. The completed record is no mere mixtape. It contains spoken greetings in 55 different languages, an eclectic selections of ambient sounds from Earth (like the sound of crickets, or a mother kissing her child), compositions from Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Blind Willie Johnson, and Chuck Berry (but not the Beatles, whose then-label, EMI, turned down the honor of being included on the Golden Record). Other content included a selection of digital images of day-to-day Earth scenes, and, in the ultimate romantic gesture, an hour-long recording of the brainwaves of Carl Sagan's future wife, Ann Druyan.
Given the eclectic array of content, clearing the legal rights to mass-produce the original record has long been a difficult challenge. Even in its heyday of the late '70s, it has never been released on vinyl before. If you wanted to listen to the Golden Record, you needed to either break out a copy of the 1992 CD-ROM, or listen to it courtesy of NASA's SoundCloud. But nostalgia-fueled reissues of vintage materials are huge right now, from the MTA Standards Manual to NASA's own design guide; the time was ripe for Ozma, a label from Boing Boing's David Pescovitz and Tim Daly of Amoeba Records, to bring the Golden Record back into print.
They're doing it right, too. In honor of the Golden Record's 40th anniversary, the reissue is being produced by the original producer who gave the Golden Record its sound, Timothy Ferris, guaranteeing it sounds better than ever. It is also being designed by Lawrence Azerrad, who creates packaging for the likes of Wilco, Best Coast, and Sting. Gold-plated copper is out in favor of traditional vinyl, and it looks like the digital images—which were contained as files on the original record itself—will be printed out and published in a companion book. This book will also trace the history of the Voyager space program, how the record was put together, and an overview of the images that the two spacecraft have sent back to Earth on their multi-billion dollar space trek so far.
Not bad, although expect this to be more expensive than your traditional vinyl: pre-orders for the Golden Record reprint start at $98, and they'll only ship if Ozma Records can crowdsource $200,000 in the next month. But hey, look at it this way: that's practically a steal compared to the $865 million the Voyager mission cost NASA![Photos: Remedy Editorial]