HOW would you fit the entirety of human civilization onto one vinyl record?
That was one of many lofty tasks facing NASA ahead of their Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM) in 1977.
Taking advantage of a rare arrangement of the outer planets, VIM saw twin spacecraft Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 set off on a unique quest to take close-up photographs of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. All of this before heading into interstellar space and carrying a vinyl record referred to as the ‘golden record’ – ready to be discovered by… aliens.
Emer Reynolds’ documentary, The Farthest (out in cinemas September 1), takes an in-depth look at this trailblazing mission which, 40 years and three billion miles later, continues to this day. The result is an awe-inspiring film which exudes just as much spirit as it does knowledge.
Reynolds, who has spent the majority of her career as an editor, pieces together an informative and enjoyable two-hour watch. That, with the help of engaging talking heads, flows smoothly without drifting into a science-dominated black hole.
To cover a slight lack of stock footage, Reynolds evokes some interesting metaphorical images. Among them is a message in a bottle and a kite flying in the wind. The film is also bookended by the crisp image of a camera pointing up at the sky as it drifts through palm tree lined streets, wind turbine fields and other locations.
Another way Reynolds holds the watcher’s attention is by balancing coverage of the VIM with brief interjections about the golden record, which is a great point of intrigue. We learn it contains everything from greetings in different languages, maths, pictures of humans, a wide variety of music and the earth’s coordinates.
These segments also throw up some amusing titbits, including The Beatles’ surprising response to appearing on the record.
The Farthest is not just an outward looking journey from earth to interstellar space. It is just as much a celebration of human achievement – a look at our desire to explore, discover and survive.
It pays testament to the incredible reach and capability of humankind. Whether it be the ingenuity of NASA in using tin foil from local stores on the spacecraft or the diversity and talent displayed on the golden record.
A quote from Jimmy Carter – who was President at the time of the Voyager launches – opens the film. With current events it feels all the more relevant. He said on the golden record: ‘We hope someday, having solved the problems we face, to join a community galactic civilization. This record represents our hope and our determination, and our good will in a vast and awesome universe.’
Whatever happens to our tiny blue planet in the next few decades – whether it be nuclear war or domination by artificial intelligence – the Voyager’s golden record will remain a glimmer of hope. It will be a lasting piece of legacy, drifting through space just waiting to be found.
Be sure to catch The Farthest this week and learn more about this remarkable mission. Spellbinding and educational.
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