“It was very hard finding this photograph. We needed to navigate the thin channel between full bodily disclosure and NASA’s fear of the adverse publicity generated by sending pictures of naked people into space. Apparently we failed, because this was the only picture in our final image sequence that NASA would not allow on the Record.
I had the idea of drawing silhouettes to accompany selected Voyager photographs in an attempt to help the ETs understand how we see pictures, and the importance of edge-detection in our vision. By maximizing the figure/ground relationship of the important subjects, I hoped the photographs would be easier to understand.
This photograph of a nude human couple was taken by George Hester, a widely respected photographer of nudes. His photograph did not fly but the silhouette did. How mysterious it may seem to ET looking for the photograph that should accompany this silhouette. How will they explain the absence? Is the concept of body taboo even possible for ET to infer?
NASA was less concerned about offending ET’s sensibilities than the reaction of the contemporary audience. They decided that the American public was not ready for full frontal nudity on spacecraft. They worried the public would react negatively and the result would be an unfavorable reaction that would damage NASA.
In almost thirty years of telling this story to audiences of every demographic makeup, I have yet to find a single person who admits to agreeing with NASA’s decision. In fact it has been considered the worst error made in the creation of the Voyager Record.”
– An account by Jon Lomberg