Remix The Golden Record

    The Challenge

    Develop a concept for a time capsule with content to educate an extraterrestrial civilization about human culture and our solar system.


    Several interstellar communications— containing music, math, science, art, and more— are aboard satellites or radio waves exiting our solar system. They were developed to inform an advanced civilization of our many human cultures and our local star system. Physical communications have used diagrams to deliver instructions for deciphering their content, the location of our Sun, etc. Radio communications have been transmitted from ground-based radio telescopes and targeted at specific star systems. Examples of these projects include the Pioneer plaques, Voyager golden records, the Arecibo message, Teen Age Message, and Cosmic Call messages.

    Your challenge is to design content to educate an advanced spacefaring civilization about humanity and our solar system. Your concept should be able to be integrated into a time capsule and flown aboard an interstellar spacecraft.

    Potential Considerations

    Form as diverse a team as possible. The team may include members with diverse disciplines, such as philosophers, artists, musicians, mathematicians, scientists, engineers, etc.

    What type of content will your team include to capture the essence of humanity and our solar system? How would the content be stored in a time capsule, and how would the target civilization decipher the content? The civilization may need to ‘play back’ the recordings. So think about how the content would be recorded (i.e. language, diagrams, math, etched recordings, etc.), and how it would be accessed by the audience. Also consider how the time capsule could stand the test of time, because it may not be discovered until tens of thousands—or more— years from today.

    What did previous communication missions do right? Can your team improve upon their methods? Think about what technology is available today compared to the technology available during the previous missions. Whatever technology you envision using, you should explain your approach, and show how your time capsule will withstand both time and the long journey through space.

    There are many resources available on the internet to research how the Voyager golden records were developed. Think about how the Golden Record team approached the project and narrowed down content to include only the most important representations of our cultures. Other available resources may be used to discover how the various extraterrestrial communications projects include clever ways of encoding messages and making decisions on what content to include.

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    SpaceApps is a NASA incubator innovation program.