Monday, September 16, 2013

Going, going...but not gone

I couldn't let this moment in history pass without pausing to look skyward.

The article, from the Associated Press, was in today's paper on page 11. The headline read "Voyager 1 probe has left the solar system." Left the solar system!! That's not the kind of event you read about every day. NASA actually thinks it might have left our solar system a year ago but they couldn't be sure until now.

That's the kind of event I used to read about in short stories and novels, a long row of books that sat on the shelf in my bedroom. Stories by Heinlein, Van Vogt, Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury, Leinster, and others. Stories set in some distant time and place.

But now, in my lifetime, something had been sent from Earth and was now moving through interstellar space. The article states, "...the spacecraft has escaped the sun's influence and is now cruising 11 1/2 billion miles away in interstellar space."

That's a great word. "Interstellar." I can just hear Ray Bradbury saying, "See? I told you.

So where is it going? you might ask. According to some experts, it's headed for Alpha Centarui, the nearest star. That should take about 40,000 years,  which will be about the same time the Cubs win the pennant. 

When Voyager 1 lifted off and headed for space, the year was 1977. Aboard was a gold-plated record which contained, among other sounds, some representative music of Earth. So whoever finds the ship, in whatever galaxy, in whatever eon, and unforeseen dimension, will have to have a turntable. If they do, they'll hear Bach's Bradenberg Concerto #2 in F (just the first movement. Too much Bach is not a friendly gesture); Chuck Berry singing his classic "Johnny B. Goode;" Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven with "Melancholy Blues" - not sure why they chose that tune - and Blind Willie Johnson with "Dark Was the Night." 

No rap, no Pit Bull, no theme song from "The Sopranos." See how far we've come in the past 36 years? 

Next time you look up at the night sky and see the stars - assuming you can see through the urban haze - think about Voyager 1.
Imagine this cold, metal disc hurtling through the space between the stars. A hopeful hand reaching out from Earth, perhaps eventually to tap some alien life form on the shoulder and say, "We're here with you." Then, with a stroke of luck or technical ingenuity, that distant being will put the disc on a turntable, drop the stylus into the groove, and hear Chuck Berry's opening guitar licks as he moves into Johnny B. Goode. 
And that being will say, "Cool. I wish I could play like that.
"Chuck & "Johnny B. Goode" on Soul Train 1973


  1. Great post Gerry! Thanks for it. Since I was a kid I have wondered what's out there? What would happen if we could get in a ship and just keep going in a straight line away from earth? Not having to worry about air, or food, or aging or sickness. What would we find? What is at the end? And once you found the end, what's past it? Anyway, maybe Voyager 1 will find out. What a trip, huh!! Thanks, Carl

  2. You have a way of drawing your reader in and making them laugh when least expected (Cubs). It is all mind boggling to me. I think we all end up out there in the great beyond.Great music choices.

  3. Gerry--Wonderful post. And to think there are still people who think that the whole "a-man-walked-on-the-moon" think was fake.

    My husband tries to goad our daughter with comments like, "You love the Cubs, right?" but thankfully, she's a smarter cookie than he is, and she doesn't rise to take the bait.

    Asimov's "Foundation Trilogy" is one of my favorites. It IS interesting how things they wrote about are coming by one.