Pioneer plaques

Designed by Carl Sagan & Frank Drake; artwork by Linda Salzman Sagan.

“The Pioneer plaques (9x6 inches) are a pair of anodized aluminum plaques which were placed on board the 1972 Pioneer 10 and 1973 Pioneer 11 spacecraft, featuring a pictorial message, in case either Pioneer 10 or 11 is intercepted by extraterrestrial life. The plaques show the nude figures of a human male and female along with several symbols that are designed to provide information about the origin of the spacecraft.
...The Pioneer spacecraft were the first human-built objects to leave the Solar System.”

The plaque contains within its pictorial symbolism a complex message which assumes a language or method of reading that on the one hand details a scientific methodology for deducing the spacecraft’s origin, and on the other attempts to convey something elementary about the life-form that is the cause of its existence. It is at once minutely specific and also metaphorical; on the left hand side, it details a radial pattern which stand for “periods of pulsars, using the hydrogen spin-flip transition frequency as the unit” and on the right, the naked white Occidental man raises his hand in good will. We have paired ourselves down to our most simplified and elementary components as a way of revealing something essential about humankind, but what are we really conveying about ourselves?

– Rosie

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