Very recently we have an official missive from NASA telling us about a series of weird signals that they are receiving from the Voyager 1 craft, deep in space.
Each Voyager space probe also carries a gold-plated audio-visual disc, should the spacecraft ever be found by intelligent life forms from other planetary systems. The disc carries photos of the Earth and its lifeforms, a range of scientific information, spoken greetings from people such as the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the United States and a medley, “Sounds of Earth,” that includes the sounds of whales, a baby crying, waves breaking on a shore, and a collection of music including works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Blind Willie Johnson, Chuck Berry and Valya Balkanska.
However, the engineering team with NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft is currently trying to solve a mystery: Their interstellar explorer is operating normally, receiving and executing commands from Earth, along with gathering and returning science data. But readouts from the probe’s attitude articulation and control system (AACS) don’t reflect what’s actually happening onboard.
The AACS controls the 45-year-old spacecraft’s orientation. Among other tasks, it keeps Voyager 1’s high-gain antenna pointed precisely at Earth, enabling it to send data home. All signs suggest the AACS is still working, but the telemetry data it’s returning is invalid. For instance, the data may appear to be randomly generated, or does not reflect any possible state the AACS could be in. It’s beaming back an abnormal message to NASA, and they’re scrambling to understand why.
Mission team members like project manager Suzanne Dodd — who began working on the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft 38 years ago as her first job out of college in 1984, are trying to figure out what is happening on this faraway probe. Here’s the background — “Is it aliens?” Inverse Magazine asks Dodd, mostly jokingly and just to get it out of the way. “No, I don’t think so,” she says after laughing. “It’s something in the circuitry,” she says. “Which, if you think of 45-year-old circuitry, it’s amazing that it’s working at all.”
The team can steer the spacecraft, and that, paired with the signal’s strength and a lack of fault protection activation, tells them that Voyager 1 is doing well. But the telemetry signal itself “does not make any sense,” producing either all zeros or the number 377, Dodd says. “Somewhere in the interface with the flight data system … there’s something that’s causing the telemetry data to be mixed up, I guess, or nonsensical,” Dodd says. “And we don’t understand that yet.”
I’m personally moved to tears! Can’t we help NASA out? Well, yes, we can.
So we have our first message from Outer Space – at least the first one that has been publically published by NASA. Or do we? Let’s decipher it and see.
I’m a writer. So kindly allow me to tell the story as I would write it.
One day, about 2 years ago or so, a group of extraterrestrials noticed a tiny craft that was ever so slowly approaching their location. Wow, they marveled, the Earthlings are certainly stretching out, aren’t they? And, like the contest lovers that they are, they decided to have a Grand Contest called “let’s play with NASA”, and all were invited to participate. The Grand Contest had rules:
1. Make a reply using their own spacecraft to broadcast it.
2. It must be in English, because God forbid NASA would learn a foreign language.
3. It must be simple to solve, because – well, it’s NASA after all.
4. The one using the least number of characters wins.
5. The message must contain a friendly greeting, and provide our location as well, just in case
they someday wish to reply to us.
6. The First Place Prize will be the Golden Record that is on-board the Voyager I, and (since the aliens have a low tolerance for alcohol) all Your Beer for a Year! (Proving once and for all that not only are Scientists cheap, they are universally cheap).
After careful judging, a Mr. George Jetson was chosen as the winner. He was able to craft a message that met the requirements using only three numbers! His use of 3,7, and 0 was held to be pure genius, and great fun as well. And as icing on the cake, he promised to get the NASA group to wave their craft in an up and down nodding fashion as a bonus! Sort of like an acknowledgement of their receipt of the extraterrestrial message.
In interviews on Universal CNN, Mr. Jetson stated that he had originally thought to use four numbers, as in the series 4,3,7,0, but after due consideration he felt that would be too simple even for NASA, and that by compacting it into three numbers they would still be able to understand his message.
But he miscalculated the intelligence levels at NASA, because, to all outward reports, they are still puzzling over his message. He wanted to express a friendly greeting while assuring them that their craft was not malfunctioning, and to let them know his location. Locations in space are determined by distance and bearings. The distance was easy – it’s the location of the Voyager 1 in space at the time when he first sent his message. That would give them the distance from Earth, and by telling them that, based upon the present heading of the Voyager 1 craft the aliens were located to the South-East of it, at about their Five o’clock position, they would have the bearing to the home planet as well. Easy Peazy.
His award winning entry was 377 followed by zeros, which totals three distinct number characters and is the reason that his entry won First Prize. In the example below that reproduces his message, I am using 6 zeros following the 377, but it could be six thousand and it would not change his message to any degree. And, by the way, NASA is not being very forthcoming on exactly how many zeros were recorded, and it is entirely possible that that count might contain yet another message part. But for the purposes of this example I am using 6.
And as to George’s first idea to use 4,3,7 and 0, that would have provided the “h” for Hello! But in considering this, I realized that in much of Europe they really don’t pronounce very clearly the “h” that begins hello – preferring instead to make it sound something like our ELL000000. And in listening to how people pick up the phone on television shows from the 1960s, it seems that Americans also tended to pronounce it more like either ELLOOOOO or ALLOOOO.
My personal opinion is that this is yet another Luis Elizondo (To the Stars!) PSYOP, designed to get us to take our attention off of the sickening economy by saying – Hey, Look over Here! We’ve got an Alien Message! NASA was probably hoping that somebody would figure this out and post it on YouTube as the first alien message from space. Since most of the social media is controlled by the Intelligence agencies of one type or another, they would push it to the hilt with positive placement, guaranteeing millions of views, and thus erasing some of the memories of Joe’s latest Lost in Space episode of his own making.
Luckily, we’re much sharper than NASA and we didn’t fall for it. But it was fun. In order to test out whether the Voyager 1 was still responding to their radio commands, NASA did sort of wave it up and down, so George was right about that part as well.
PS – George says thanks for the Golden Disk – he really enjoys the Blind Willie Johnson songs.