family portrait" [R] which captured Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune as their own pixels. Mercury was too close to the Sun to be distinguished and Mars was also awkwardly placed in front of the brightest thing in the area, so was bleached out of the picture. The signal was then beamed back home and took more than 5 hours, travelling at the speed of light, just to arrive. Voyager I was launched 5th September 1977, when I had long hair and a moustache and The Boy was still in diapers. In 1977, I was still two years from writing my first computer program on an IBM System/370 mainframe; there were no mobile phones; no interweb. Clearly Voyager I didn't have an IBM mainframe aboard because the spacecraft itself shipped out at about the same weight, so the hardware was "primitive" by today's standards but amazingly sophisticated in what it was capable of doing constrained by the hardware limits of the day. The engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory really pulled a rabbit out of this tiny hat. It took 5 hours to send a signal back to the Voyager I, so conversing with the craft was laborious. You had to think what you were going to say.
When Voyager left in 1977, it took a message to the Other Chaps designed by a committee chaired by Carl "Billions" Sagan, who put together a Golden Disk of information that they thought would convey to the Others a) just how cool we were and b) where we could be located. When the Family Portrait was taken Sagan went all poetical on us: "From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam." Voyager I is now 130 AU from us, travelling at 17km/s, and Carl Sagan is long [20/Dec/1996] dead.
Tiny hats off to engineers!
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