Was It a Mistake to Broadcast Earth Coordinates on the Voyager Spacecraft?
According to the science fiction novel Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard, it was a grave mistake to send the Voyager space probes into space with Earth’s coordinates.
“Man apparently sent out some kind of probe that gave full directions to the place, had pictures of man on it and everything. It got picked up by a Psychlo recon…. The probe and the pictures were on a metal that was rare everywhere and worth a clanking fortune. And Intergalactic paid the Psychlo governors sixty trillion Galactic credits for the directions and the concession. One gas barrage and we were in business.” —Chapter 1, Battlefield Earth
In this space opera novel, the alien invaders consider Earth part of a “rim star system,” way out on the edge of a galaxy in the 16th universe. This was the last universe to be discovered by their race and was never wholly mapped. You can download the first 13 chapters or listen to the first hour of the audiobook for free.
Voyager 1 and 2 were launched in 1977 with the Golden Record.
The Voyager spacecraft record was inscribed with a map showing our solar system’s position relative to its 14 nearest stars. It included images, scientific information written in a universal language, greetings in 55 languages, a collection of music, and a message to aliens or other life from the then President of the United States, Jimmy Carter that closed with “This record represents our hope and our determination, and our good will in a vast and awesome universe.”
Here’s a video of the 116 images NASA wanted aliens to see.
Both spacecraft will continue to drift for billions of miles carrying their message to any intelligent spacefaring civilization that might happen to discover them.
Where is the Voyager Now?
Today, the spacecraft probes receive routine commands and return data to Earth. Voyager 1 became the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space in 2012 and Voyager 2 is now traveling through the outer layers of our solar system.
At their current speed of 10 kilometers per second, it will take roughly 40,000 years to go from one star to another. So chances of a sufficiently powerful radar being able to detect them seem unlikely.
Voyager 2 was left flying solo for 7 months while repairs were made to the Deep Space Station 43 (DSS43) antenna that commands it. Just recently, NASA re-established contact. The craft is now traveling more than 11.6 billion miles (18.8 billion km) from Earth. It is beyond the heliopause, or boundary region, where the sun’s influence ends and the interstellar medium begins. It is estimated to take about 300 years for Voyager 2 to reach the inner edge of the Oort Cloud, a sphere surrounding our solar system made up of space debris, and possibly 30,000 years to pass through it.
As each of the space probes continue their unique journey, you can see the real spacecraft trajectories using NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System app (updated every five minutes).
Friendly or Hostile Aliens
Not everyone believes it was a mistake to send out the coordinates of Earth.
Back when the Golden Record was created “all the people I dealt with were optimists and they thought the ETs would be friendly,” says Frank Drake, designer of the map on the record. “Nobody thought, even for a few seconds, about whether this might be a dangerous thing to do.”
With what we know of the galaxy and the number of inhabitable planets there could be, some think it is dangerous to freely broadcast our exact location. Hostile aliens, like the Psychlos in Battlefield Earth, could be the end result.
And others, like New York Times bestselling author, Jim Marrs, said “I believe there is a certain risk involved with moving into space but the benefits outweigh the risks. I am not overly concerned with the idea of an alien invasion as depicted in Battlefield Earth because UFOs have been a part of human history all the way back (think Ezekiel and the flying fiery wheel). If they wanted to invade, why wait until now, why didn’t they do that when all we had to defend ourselves with was spears.”
Others think the method used to design the map on the golden record was clever but inherently flawed as long-term changes in space will render the map useless. Possibly by the time anyone finds it, they will encounter a riddle that will be very difficult to decipher.
Regardless, the truth is the Voyagers spacecraft probes are out there, the map can be found, the code can be broken and a hostile alien race could very well invade our planet. Much like the scenario in Battlefield Earth:
Or, on the other hand, we could establish interstellar friendships with the likes of E.T. and the “heptapods” described in the 2016 movie Arrival.
So, was it a mistake to send out a map of Earth’s coordinates?