As a human, I'm mildly interested in seeing for myself what message we have sent to some hypothetical aliens.

This NASA page displays 48 of them:


The problem is, that's less than half of the total of 116 images.

The rest of the images are not displayed because NASA does not have permission from the individual copyright holders to do so.

How can I view the full set legally?

Some desirable "nice to have" constraints also includes:

  • Not costing me much money, or being completely without cost whatsoever.
  • Accessible on the internet.
  • Not requiring a lot of time and effort.

Of the three straightforward ways of doing this, none are very practical:

  1. Catching up to the Voyager and reading the golden record.
  2. Reaching out to four dozen copyright holders 50 years later to obtain permission.
  3. Waiting for all the images to fall into the public domain.

From what I can see, my best bet is if someone has already done 2). If so, who?


3 Answers 3


For free, but low-resolution: Small versions of all1 the images are included in the book Murmurs of Earth by Sagan etc.

Chapter 3 "Pictures of Earth" includes a visual index and then slightly higher quality versions of each picture1. Some are even in color. Descriptive text is included for each image.

You can check it out and see them at the internet archive here.

This is the very-low-resolution index to the 116 pictures.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

Slightly more expensive than free: The book is available used at internet bookstores for less than $10 US.

1 As pointed out in a comment by Andrew, Picture 78 is not included in the book. But they kindly supplied a link to a paper which contains it, as well as many other of the images.

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    $\begingroup$ Oddly enough all but one image are included here - you can see it as the black square, #78. The detailed information for the photo says they couldn't reach an agreement with the photographer to include it in the book. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 2, 2020 at 13:12
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    $\begingroup$ And for completeness, here it is! $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 2, 2020 at 13:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Andrew thanks again, will edit it in. If you'd like to write your own answer instead, I'll remove this information you supplied from my answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 2, 2020 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ no, please add! I had originally come to write an answer when I saw the question, but it would have been exactly the same as yours - "there's this book..." :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 2, 2020 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ $10? That's money that could be spent on my Voyager retrieval mission instead! $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 10:59

The images in question were copied onto the disk with permission of the copyright holder. There are two copies of the disk that were placed specifically to be found and read by intelligent life. Both are currently still in the Sol system. One can be found in the direction of the very bright star Sirius and the other about halfway between the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia. Go and get them!

Do note that although both disks were launched on older Titan launch vehicles, the common launch vehicles of today, such as Falcon Heavy and Delta IV, have less characteristic energy. They therefore would be unlikely to be able to launch a vehicle able to catch up to the crafts carrying the records, especially with a 40 years' head start. Furthermore, the records have enjoyed gravity assists from both Jupiter and Saturn. It seems that those two planets may not be aligned to provide similar gravity assists in the same direction for another 80 years give or take. So in order to go and get them, newer, more powerful launch vehicles will need to be developed. Presumably the SpaceX Starship will be able to launch enough mass and volume to launch a vehicle capable of retrieving the disks.

Perhaps if intelligent extra-terrestrial life will discover the records, they may transmit the data back to us if we ask nicely. I could find no information if copying of data by non-human intelligent life is permitted in the license terms of the copyright images in question. Perhaps next time we decide to use art to represent the human race, we should consider using images which humans are permitted to view ourselves.


The Voyager golden record commemorative edition, published by the Planetary Society in the early 1990's contains 2 CDs. One of them has an .exe file to display the 116 color images engraved on the original Voyager golden record. However I was never able to execute this file or to display the pictures...

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    $\begingroup$ Not sure how likely this would work but it's easy to try: right-click the exe file, select Properties, and go to the Compatibility tab. Check the box that says "Run this program in compatibility mode for." Choose an older version of Windows, although it looks like compatibility mode only goes as far back as Windows Vista now. If that doesn't work, with a little more effort you can install DOSBox on your computer which is a free open-source software. People use it to run old DOS video games. I use it to run a 1992 version of SkyGlobe. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 20 at 16:22

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