You are here

Calling Cards

May 26, 2016

The Juno spacecraft is just weeks away from the planet Jupiter. The craft carries several instruments that will help scientists peer into the giant planet’s interior. It also carries a few trinkets: a plaque honoring Galileo Galilei, the first person to study Jupiter through a telescope, as well as three aluminum Legos. One depicts Galileo, another is the god Jupiter, and the third is his wife, Juno, who could peer through hubby’s veil of clouds to see what he was up to.

Spacecraft have been launching with messages, trinkets, and other goodies for decades. The Voyager missions carried gold phonograph records with pictures, sounds, and video clips. Today, as the Voyagers escape the solar system, those messages are heading for the stars.

Many spacecraft carry the names of well-wishers. That began with the Cassini mission to Saturn, which launched in 1997. The signatures of would-be Saturnians were scanned and stored on a DVD — more than 600,000 of them, all of which will continue to orbit Saturn until the mission ends next year.

In addition to names, the Mars-orbiting MAVEN mission carries thousands of haiku. And a DVD aboard Phoenix, a Mars lander, was packed with 80 novels and short stories about Mars, along with a gallery of more than 60 works of art.

And New Horizons, which flew past Pluto last year, carried some of the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the little world, as well as other objects. More about that tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield

Get Premium Audio

Listen to today's episode of StarDate on the web the same day it airs in high-quality streaming audio without any extra ads or announcements. Choose a $8 one-month pass, or listen every day for a year for just $30.