Below is the image featured on a plaque installed on both the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 space probes launched in 1972 and 1973, respectively. It is intended to be our introduction to other intelligent life in the galaxy — should it eventually be found by some deep space traveler or interstellar trash collector.
Some have questioned the wisdom of sending this kind of information into space; explaining how to get to where we are; how we think; and how nice ’n’ juicy we look.
Realistically, though, this is much less of a concern than the programming we’ve been blasting out into the universe for years now. The aliens, if any, in the 70 Virginus star system (58 light years out) could be watching I love Lucy right now — but, unlike us, they wouldn’t have to watch it in re-runs!
An explanation of the plaque by NASA:
“The Pioneer F spacecraft, destined to be the first human made object to escape from the solar system into interstellar space, carries this pictorial plaque. It is designed to show scientifically educated inhabitants of some other star system, who might intercept it millions of years from now, when Pioneer was launched, from where, and by what kind of beings (With the hope that they would not invade Earth). The design is etched into a 6 inch by 9 inch gold-anodized aluminum plate, attached to the spacecraft’s attenna support struts in a position to help shield it from erosion by interstellar dust. The radiating lines at left represents the positions of 14 pulsars, a cosmic source of radio energy, arranged to indicate our sun as the home star of our civilization. The “1-” symbols at the ends of the lines are binary numbers that represent the frequencies of these pulsars at the time of launch of Pioneer F relative of that to the hydrogen atom shown at the upper left with a “1” unity symbol. The hydrogen atom is thus used as a “universal clock,” and the regular decrease in the frequencies of the pulsars will enable another civilization to determine the time that has elapsed since Pioneer F was launched. The hydrogen is also used as a “universal yardstick” for sizing the human figures and outline of the spacecraft shown on the right. The hydrogen wavelength, about 8 inches, multiplied by the binary number representing “8” shown next to the woman gives her height, 64 inches. The figures represent the type of creature that created Pioneer. The man’s hand is raised in a gesture of good will. Across the bottom are the planets, ranging outward from the Sun, with the spacecraft trajectory arching away from Earth, passing Mars, and swinging by Jupiter.” Source: http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/ABSTRACTS/GPN-2000-001623.html
Another interesting about the Pioneer missions is that the craft have unexpectedly started slowing down.
More on that later…