The Challenge | Remix The Golden Record

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

Golden Legacy

Golden Legacy's goal is to create a time capsule to educate an extraterrestrial civilization about humanity, that needs to survive in space for tens of thousands of years. We need to think about how it will survive and how to make the content decipherable.

Aperture Science

We started by finding information on the previous projects: The Golden Record Cover, Pioneer Plaque, APOD (2005 and 2006)... To do so, we used NASA's data provided on these links:,%20Voyager%20Interstellar%20Record%20Collection,%20%201976-1977.pdf

We found out that although very creative, all these projects were quite small projects. They would not impact a lot a potential society because it does not apport a lot of information about us and it is very hard to decipher. We would like to create something easier to decipher that would impact a lot more the extraterrestrial civilization. Also we would like to create something that uses today's technology because the previous projects do not use that much technology and in the end, they were so simple that they had absolutely no chance of getting caught by a potential civilization and then be deciphered.

Once we had an overview of what had been done before and what we could improve, we started working on what we would include in the time capsule and how it could be deciphered. We decided to create something bigger than before which would contain a lot more information but easier to decipher as we believe the idea of using an atom of hydrogen for example to teach how to count is, although a very creative concept, quite hard to understand.

We also started working on how the time capsule will survive tens of thousands of years in space. We need to think about if the time capsule will be in something or not. We need to take into considerations the radiations that can deter the capsule, the temperature, the potential collisions with other cosmic objects...

As for how it will survive, we thought of putting the time capsule into a rectangular parallelepiped which is in a cylinder which is situated in the middle of 6 other cylinders. The whole thing will be in a sphere.

Why have we chosen these shapes and why so many precautions?

We decided to put the time capsule in a rectangular parallelepiped in order to stock it in a simple shape. Then we put this rectangle in a cylinder because of the 6 other cylinders that will be around it. The 6 cylinders that will surround the main cylinder are superconducting solenoids that will protect the time capsule from any radiations. We have put the time capsule in a cylinder which will be in the middle because this is how another space mission had been done (

The whole thing will be in a sphere because the sphere is a shape that absorbs the energy of the impacts and so resists more than other shapes.

Now that we have solved the problem of the shape of the object, we need to think about its autonomy and capacity of being autonomous as it should be able to survive in space for tens of thousands of years.

We thought about an autonomous navigation system that could detect objects around him and change its trajectory so that the time capsule does not collide with other things. We found a navigation system called SEXTANT which uses X-Rays to detect object moving very fast in a radius of more than 10km ( This is the perfect system for our project.

Once we have this, we need to find a way of being autonomous in terms of energy. We struggled a bit on this point. At the beginning, we thought about just putting a battery that would recharge itself but we found out that batteries "die" after a time of use. So we then thought about a battery that would not be working for years and would turn itself on after a time but batteries that are not used also loose energy... So we thought about turning the battery on for 15mins per day. We found out that the battery should survive 416 years.This is not enough. But what we could do is use this concept with more than one battery and each time, one of the batteries would recharge the other one and vice versa. This would work for years but there is a loss of energy each time so we would need an awful amount of batteries to make it work for tens of thousands of years. We then wanted to use the NASA multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator ( but it would only survive a minimum of 14 years. Finally, we decided to try using solar panels with a circuit of batteries that would recharge each other like we explained above.

The batteries will be needed to power the navigation system but also a motion sensor which will be with the time capsule and a propelling system. Both the propelling system and navigation system will need to be powered every day although we will be able to turn them off if nothing is in front.

The motion sensor will be turned off at the beginning of the project. Otherwise, we would waste energy and the sensor would break himself. We need the motion sensor to open the screen that is on the time capsule and turn everything on when the potential extraterrestrial civilization is in front of the object. This is why we will not need the sensor until at least thousands of years.

To turn the sensor on when found by another civilization, we have imagined a tube in which two small magnets would hold a ball (made of a conducting material) in the air (weightlessness). As we believe if a civilization finds our object, they will bring it back to their planet, when applied to the gravitational force of this planet, the ball will fall. The ball will fall on an open electric circuit with the batteries of the sensor and will close the circuit. This way, the batteries will start working. The navigation system here is useful because as it changes the trajectory when seeing other planets or stars..., our object will not get in contact with a gravitational force by "error".

Now that we have solved the problem of traveling through space during years, we can think about what information to include in the time capsule and how to stock it. In the "how we will stock it part", we will need to think about how to make it the most easily decipherable.

At first, we wanted to include everything that represents humanity, from photographies of monuments to songs and movies. But we then thought about the previous projects that had narrowed down the content in order to only give the most important characteristics of humanity. We still want to include more information than the previous projects but we still narrowed down our list too.

Finally, we decided to first teach the extraterrestrial society to count, then teach them our language and then give them a sort of menu with 6 different folders. These folders are: Customs, Music, Science, Art, Solar System and Values. We will include some examples in each folder to represent humanity and educate the other civilization about us. We also tried to narrow down the examples we will give. We only want the most relevant things.

In order to teach them how to count and then our language, we decided to make it a lot easier than other previous projects. We chose an image which we are almost sure everyone in the universe knows: a rock. We would also put the image of a planet in case there are no rocks on the planet of our extraterrestrial civilization. With these images, we would put a list with:

- Nothing => 0 images of rocks

- (image of rock) => 1 image of rock

- (image of rock) (image of rock) => 2 images of rocks ...

Each time, we would have a "bip" sound for each image of rock displayed at the beginning and then the sound of the number it represents (ex: "bip" "bip" => "two"). We decided to do this in case the civilization does not have eyes like we do.

We would list the numbers from 0 to 26 because we will then assign each number to a letter in order to teach them our language afterwards. We will do it from 0 to 26 because there are 26 letters in the latin alphabet and we will use the 0 for the space symbol. We will only use the English language for our project to keep it simple. To assign a number to a letter will then allow us to show that in a word, every letter is a different symbol. For example "CAT" could be understood as 3 symbols, 2 symbols or 1 symbol. As C, A and T will each be assigned to a number, they will be able to deduce that they are individual symbols each. Otherwise, it will be very hard for them to create a translation pattern.

Afterwards, we will give them images of things we believe are universal with the name of the thing in English and the numbers assigned to each letter under the name. Again, the words will be said too to teach them how to pronounce. At this point we believe they will be capable of creating a sort of table where they will create the translation pattern. As we know they can travel in space, we believe they are at least as advanced as us and so they will able to translate.

Finally, we will give them a dictionary with no definitions, only images as well as some phrases to explain how we link words so that they learn everything about our language and society.

During all this "first time", all the images and sounds will be displayed in various frequencies so that if the extraterrestrial civilization does not see or hear in the same frequencies as we do, they can understand everything.

Now that we managed to teach them how to count and speak our language, a menu will appear on the screen with 6 different folders. Just before we will have explained how the controls work. The 6 folders are: Customs, Music, Science, Art, Solar System and Values. In each folder we will include what we believe is the most relevant to represent humanity.

In the folder "Customs", we chose to put 2 photographies: one of the Olympic games and one of people voting (to represent democracy).

In the folder "Music", we will put songs from 3 different artists representing different music cultures around the world.

In the folder "Science", we will include theorems from the beginnings of mathematics and as much advanced theorems from mathematics and physics as possible in order to share our knowledge and maybe cooperate with the other civilization in the quest to knowledge. We will also include a part presenting our DNA and how the human body works.

In the folder "Art", we will include two famous paintings and two famous books (The Little Prince from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and The Bible). This will allow us to give them an understanding of our values and faith.

In the folder "Solar System", we will include information on our solar system. We have calculated how many kilometers the object could travel in 40 000 years (more than needed) and found out that it will travel a maximum of 1.8 light years. There are about 24 000 light years between our Sun and the center of the milky way so we are sure it won't get out of our milky way. This is why we will only provide a map of our milky way with a point on our planet. Because we know the civilization can travel in space, we know that they will be able to read the map we will provide.

Finally, in the folder "Values", we chose to represent THE value that for us, represents humanity. We believe it is liberty. We chose the painting "La liberté guidant le peuple" from Eugène Delacroix because it is the painting that best represents liberty for the people on Earth.


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