Right now the Voyager 1 space craft is taking humanity further into space than ever before. Travelling at an astonishing 62,000 km/ hour it is currently 19 billion kilometers away from earth after been launched in 1977. Two things make the voyager very exciting. First is the boldness of it's vision. The second is it's contents, the Golden Record, a vinyl designed to give extra terrestrials a first impression of Earth through our most cherished sounds, images and symbols.
Since NASA had its space budget scaled down in the wake of the 2008 recession, there has been very little money invested purely for the sake of true exploration. NASA's commercial responsibilities to various government space agencies and telecommunication companies has been taken over by various private companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX.
The fact that it will take over 40,000 years for Voyager to reach a new planetary system that has the potential for other life forms, that represents a huge amount of time to recoup a return on investment of around $1 Billion (Voyager cost NASA $250 million in 1977), if anything at all. How can we expect private companies to take that kind of risk?
The reality however is that the risk reward ratio of true exploration is never known because you just have no idea what is out there. For years the money invested in exploring the Earth's deep crust has been considered uneconomical because of the belief that it was just a mix of rock, gases and molten lava.
Recently researchers from Northwestern University have detailed in the journal Science that through the use of a network of seismometers, they have potentially discovered a mass of water 3 times the size of our ocean that we never knew existed. If this water is fresh it opens up a completely new dialogue around the water shortage emergency that is gripping the planet. Who truly knows what else is down there?
When we consider the risks of spending huge sums of money and time engaging in true exploration for ourselves, we should never base that on any model where we try to weigh up what we will spend on what we think we will find. You just have no idea what it could be worth to you. What's more, even if you don't discover something that seems valuable in the short term you have no comprehension how the experience will shape you in years to come. The universe makes delays a lot more than it makes denials. In the end, we explore the horizon not only because of what we will find but because we are primed to make the voyage and it is the journey that is perhaps the real treasure that we will cherish for a life time.
If we do decide to make the voyage we have to decide where we will go and what we will take with us. Hidden deep within the cabin of Voyager 1 is the Golden Record, a metal vinyl that comes complete with a cartridge and instructions on how to play the short summary of humanities history, aspirations and inspiration. Any extra terrestrial who played the record would hear the deep vibrations of a whale, the grace of Bach'sBrandenburg Concerto No.2 and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages. They would see a 115 images representing the beauty, variety and cultural diversity of our home planet.
The record is both an astounding gift and a huge invitation to connect. It begs of each person to answer the call as to what would be included in their own Golden Record and what do they offer that will entice people to want to reach out, even from billions of miles away.
Spend time now collating all the things that will make up your Golden Record and how the creation of that collection will influence whether you feel you are living your life according to your most significant values and whether you need to open yourself up once again to true exploration. Godspeed!