Friday, February 8, 2013

Voyager and the End of the Space Age

Matthew Battles:
In Star Trek: the Motion Picture (1979), a Voyager probe is returned to us by alien others as the heart of a vast living machine. From its scarred and patinated nameplate, they have interpreted the artifact’s name as “V’ger,” which they found and retooled a mere couple of hundred years after the Voyagers’ late twentieth-century launch. “V’ger” was supposed to be Voyager 6, one in a lengthy line of missions to the stars; in reality, the program ended in 1977 after only two probes were launched. This prompts a question: what story will future xenoarchaeologists glean from our spacefaring artifacts? In the space age, we thought them the foundation stones of our future spacefaring civilization; increasingly, they seem like the moai of Easter Island—votive offerings, erected in desperate hope on the only shores we will ever know.

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