Contact beyond the Solar System

The following year, Sagan published his first science fiction book, Planets (1966), coauthored by Jonathan Norton Leonard, which fancifully described life on Jupiter. Sagan's invented, rather than factual, descriptions did little to impress his colleagues.

In 1971, Sagan left Harvard to accept a full professorship of astronomy at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. In that same year, during a visit to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena,


(Gold-anodized aluminum plate)

1) Represents our solar system of the Sun and nine planets 2) Radial pattern indicating the position of our solar system and its distance away from certain pulsars in our galaxy 3) Illustrates a reverse of an electron's spin in a hydrogen atom, which emits a radio wave of 8.27 inches (21 cm) long, indicating that 8.27 inches is being used as our base length 4) Straight line indicating the distance from the Sun to the center of our galaxy 5) Trajectory of the Pioneer spacecraft as shown leaving from Earth, the third planet from the Sun 6) Silhouette of the Pioneer spacecraft 7) Vertical and horizontal ticks in binary code meaning the number eight 8) Bars showing the height of the woman compared to the spacecraft. By using the measurement formula of 8.27 inches multiplied by the binary number eight, the woman's height can be determined to be five feet, five inches (1.65 m).

California, concerning one of the Mars Mariner missions, freelance writers Eric Burgess and Richard Hoagland approached Sagan with the idea that a message should be placed aboard the Pioneer 10 mission, which was slated for launch in March 1972. They reasoned that, once Pioneer's job taking readings from Jupiter was completed, it would continue out of the solar system, becoming the first Earth probe to venture beyond the known planets into the unknowns of deep space without a set trajectory. Pioneer 10 would continue to function for 20 or more years, since it was powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators, or RTGs, which produce electricity from decaying plutonium. (RTGs are used when a spacecraft will be traveling too far from the Sun to warrant the use of solar power.) In other words, no one knew where it would end up; no one knew how many eons it would continue to "coast" in space; and no one knew what other beings it might meet out thereā€”if any.

This seemed like the perfect opportunity to place upon the spacecraft a message for any encounters with unknown intelligent species that might answer questions as to where it came from and who sent it. Sagan agreed. He contacted NASA, and to his surprise, NASA agreed as well. The artistic designs for a plaque etched with a message were the responsibility of Sagan's new wife, Linda Salzman, whom he married in 1968 after having divorced Lynn Alexander in 1965.

Sagan also headed the projects of other interstellar messages sent out on the Pioneer 11, Voyager I, and Voyager II missions. When the Voyager missions launched in 1977, they each carried a gold-plated copper record containing much more information than the plaque fastened to the Pioneer probes. The two-hour-long record (played at 16 2/3 revolutions per minute) carried recorded pictures, convertible from audio to video; 87.5 minutes of music; sounds of nature, such as whale songs and erupting volcanoes; and greetings in 55 human languages, along with an excess of other data. A full account of the gold record, its contents and purposes, the people involved in its creation, and the missions of the Voyager spacecraft is in the 1978 book Murmurs of the Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record, by Carl Sagan, F. D. Drake, Ann Druyan, Timothy Ferris, Jon Lomberg, and Linda Salzman Sagan.

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Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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