No longer Lost in Space.
April 30, 2001 8:08 AM   Subscribe

No longer Lost in Space. But I wonder: how much longer before a Romulan warship collides with it?
posted by legibility (17 comments total)
"The spacecraft carries a gold plaque engraved with a message of goodwill and a map showing the Earth's location within the solar system"

Damn fools!! Doesn't NASA know *anything* about Romulan warships?!
posted by mackieb at 8:50 AM on April 30, 2001

I, for one, am rolling out the welcome mat for V-Ger.
posted by darren at 8:55 AM on April 30, 2001

The Pioneer project still fascinates me (though I wasn't even a though in my parents minds when it was launched). I have to admit, however, that the ship presents my mind with a bit of a problem.

See, the plaque that it carries depicts our planet as being dominated by white men, with white women being somehow subservient to them (and both without any messy pubic hair). I'm not just projecting my idealogy into this either - check it out for yourself.

Anyway, while the chances are astronomically small that another civilization will ever come across our little craft, I fear that if they do, they will have a very limited understanding of the people who sent it.
posted by aladfar at 8:55 AM on April 30, 2001

Better the Romulans than the Borg.
posted by frykitty at 8:57 AM on April 30, 2001

I remember the day they launched this quite well, and I have thought about it quite often. It always struck me as a very lonely thing, and it only seems more so now. To think of it responding to a beam from earth is almost tragic, as if it will have to start waiting all over again. I think it is because it has some personality, and we sent it off, never to return. Anthropomorphic I know, but my empathic skills are rudimentary.
posted by thirteen at 9:18 AM on April 30, 2001

The spacecraft is currently 7.29 billion miles from Earth. At that distance, radio signals take 21 hours and 45 minutes to make the roundtrip between the Earth and the spacecraft. "In order (for Pioneer 10) to talk to us, we need to talk to it," said Ric Campo, the mission's chief flight controller.

That's a helluva long ping latency. Someone should contact the ISP!
posted by crunchland at 9:36 AM on April 30, 2001

Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only a few million years since they crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine and plague, they've survived cosmic wars and holocausts and now, here they are, out among the stars ready to begin a new life, ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable... indomitable.
posted by feelinglistless at 11:26 AM on April 30, 2001

Anyway, while the chances are astronomically small that another civilization will ever come across our little craft, I fear that if they do, they will have a very limited understanding of the people who sent it.

Pioneer 10 is preceded by decades of television and radio broadcasting which contains far more obnoxious messages about the human race than that plaque bears. Any alien civilisation which finds it will probably already know all about us and our weird ideas about race & sexuality.

Besides, even if we recalled the plaque and installed a more modern version, we'd just have to do it all over again thirty years from now. The culture of 2030, after all, is going to think our values are old-fashioned and narrow minded.

posted by Mars Saxman at 11:55 AM on April 30, 2001

And only one light-year out: the .com implosion hasn't occurred yet....
posted by ParisParamus at 12:03 PM on April 30, 2001

What kills me is that they're getting a signal from 7 billion miles away using an 8-watt transmitter, and when I get in my car I can barely pick up my local radio stations. And, hey, did anyone notice that the shaved white guy from the plaque is uncircumsized? I sense a conspiracy!!
posted by apollo at 12:24 PM on April 30, 2001

What, a conspiracy not to circumcise white guys? Now that's the kind of conspiracy I could get behind.
posted by kindall at 12:36 PM on April 30, 2001

Maybe an advanced civilization would realize that no message can be perfect and the senders have cultural bias as they must have.

Personally, I think it will be slightly more jarring that we aren't naked as much as we all don't look like the drawing. Or that the moon will be gone after the 18th World War.
posted by skallas at 1:38 PM on April 30, 2001

I know that, if I were to eventually contact extraterrestrial species, I'd want my first message to them to be, "Hey! Check out my nads!"
posted by Danelope at 4:16 PM on April 30, 2001

Pioneer isn't going anywhere near any aliens for a long, long, long time. Voyager 2 has a better shot: it will pass within a mere 1.1 light-years of the star AC +79 3888 in a mere 40,000 years. (Long enough, by the way, for Proxima Centauri to no longer be our nearest neighbor.) AC there is a cannonball of a star, which will travel about ten light-years during the same time frame, whipping past us so fast and close we'll be able to feel the breeze.
posted by dhartung at 5:59 PM on April 30, 2001

The nekkid people on the plaque aren't white. They're gold. The whole plaque is gold. Just my two cents.
posted by krakedhalo at 7:07 PM on April 30, 2001

And aladfar should know that the design of the plaque was both hasty and hotly debated; in particular I recall that the inclusion of a woman was a big deal, to show that we weren't just male. I think given the constraints and the fact that it was a more-or-less last-minute addition, they managed pretty well.

Again, if aliens want to see worse, they need merely tune their bridge monitors to Jerry Springer....
posted by dhartung at 6:33 PM on May 1, 2001

One of my favorite jokes involves aliens finding Pioneer and sending back a message. The punchline is ... "Send more Chuck Berry!"
posted by rdr at 9:23 PM on May 1, 2001

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