Matthew Batt writes an elegiac portrait of the Voyager program. As they drift into the interstellar darkness, do they speak more to the culture that launched them than to beings in the stars? Could they be considered the Easter Island statues of our times?
'No one can know whether aliens will ever decode Sagan’s elegant, austere inscriptions. The probes, however, are already storytellers in their own right. As a session presented at the meeting of the World Archaeology Conference at the Dead Sea in Jordan this January pointed out, ‘The physical attributes of our spacecraft themselves convey a rich narrative about our civilisation typically ignored in technical and academic considerations of extraterrestrial communication.’ Plaques or no plaques, the probes are artefacts — objects etched with the traces of human craft, bearing meaning-making fingerprints. The conference poster session, entitled ‘The bottle as the message: Solar System Escape Trajectory Artefacts’, was offered by Colleen Beck and Ben McGee, both of whom have published research on the archaeology of the space age. In the session abstract, the authors aver that ‘The informational value of the famed “messages in a bottle” — plaques and discs intended for future extraterrestrial communication — pale in comparison with the informational value of the bottle, the spacecraft itself.’"
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