Scenario Description: An astronomy class has just begun. The homework for the previous night was to read about NASA’s Voyager Space Probe Program. The review of the material will be covered as a competition game, so the students have been divided into two groups – the girls against the boys. The two teams will take turns answering the teacher’s questions. A 100% correct answer scores a point. The team that wins the most points earns one week without any homework along with a few other perks.
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|Narrator||An astronomy class has just begun. The homework for the previous night was to read about NASA’s Voyager Space Probe Program. The review of the material will be covered as a competition game, so the students have been divided into two groups – the girls against the boys. The two teams will take turns answering the teacher’s questions. A 100% correct answer scores a point. The team that wins the most points earns one week without any homework along with a few other perks.|
|Teacher||Okay, who are the chosen spokespeople for the teams?|
|Sally||I’m the spokesperson for the girls’ team.|
|Jeff||And I’m the spokesperson for the boys’ team.|
|Teacher||All right, let’s get started. Remember, you have one minute to consult with your team before presenting your answer. In accordance with American chivalry traditions, we’ll let the ladies go first. Remember, detailed answers are more likely to be accepted as correct. First question: When did the Voyager Space Probe Program begin, and what was its purpose?|
|Narrator||For each question, the spokesperson holds a tete-a-tete with their teammates and jots down notes and quickly organizes them for presentation to the teacher. Sally does so and is now ready to speak.|
|Sally||This program launched two probes in 1977, which were named Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Their original five-year mission was to conduct close-up studies of Jupiter and Saturn. However, once their mission objectives were completed, they still had usable lifetimes, so their mission was expanded to explore Uranus and Neptune as well.|
|Teacher||Correct — one point for the girls’ team. Next question: When did the Voyagers’ mission end?|
|Jeff||Their original mission objectives of studying Jupiter and Saturn were satisfied by 1981. However, since they were still functional, their mission was modified to continue on to explore Uranus and Neptune as well. That extended mission was completed in 1989. Since they are still transmitting data even today, it can be said that their mission, as revised several times, has lasted about 40 years so far and is still ongoing.|
|Teacher||Correct — one point for the boys’ team. Next question: How much longer do we expect to receive valuable data from these two probes? Since that is a short answer, here is a follow-on question: Where are they now?|
|Sally||We expect to receive useful data from them for about 10 more years, until their power supplies are depleted and their critical systems can no longer function. Voyager 1 has left our solar system and entered interstellar space, so its new and current mission is called the Voyager Interstellar Mission. Voyager 2 is in the outermost layer of our heliosphere. (view the Voyager space probe interactively https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/spacecraft/interactive.php )|
|Teacher||Correct — one point for the girls’ team. |
Next question: Looking at this picture of the Voyager space probe, what is that shiny golden disc?
|Jeff||NASA placed a message aboard Voyager 1 and 2, a kind of time capsule, intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials. This message was in the form of what we call the “golden record.” That shiny golden disc is the golden record, a 12-inch gold-plated copper disc containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. It has instructions on how to find our planet and invited any alien species finding our space probe to come visit us.|
|Teacher||Correct — one point for the boys’ team. Next question: Explain the drawings on this golden record in general terms.|
|Sally||Section 1 explains how to play the record to see the images and hear the sounds on it.|
Section 2 explains how the video signal is stored on the disc as a waveform.
Section 3 gives directions to Earth based on the locations of 14 pulsars in our galaxy relative to Earth.
Section 4 is a hydrogen atom shown in two different energy states, used to present a time scale of sorts.
|Teacher||Correct — one point for the girls’ team. Next question: What audio-visual content is stored on the record?|
|Jeff||The contents of the record were selected by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University, |
et. al. Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind and thunder, birds, whales, and other animals. To this, they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in 50 languages, and printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim. https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/golden-record/whats-on-the-record/ (see the contents)
|Teacher||No point awarded. You made one mistake. Sally?|