Today marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Voyager 1 space probe. In four decades its lonely journey has reached some momentous milestones. On November 20 1980 it passed Saturn's largest moon, Titan, discovering liquid lakes. On February 14 1990 it took a 'family portrait' of the planets in our Solar System from its furthest reaches. On August 25 2012 it truly entered Star Trek territory, boldly going into interstellar space. It is expected to continue functioning until 2025 when its instruments will finally shut down.
As well as photographing the components of the Solar System, the probe contains the so-called 'Golden Record', a snapshot of life on earth portrayed by different sounds: including whale song, the cries of hyenas and chimpanzees, and a cross-section of music from Bach to Chuck Berry. Images of the third rock from the sun and human activity were also added. All of this is intended to give an impression of the probe's distant home world in the event of extraterrestrial lifeforms coming across it at some point in the far-off future. Or sooner.
It does paint quite a picture, the thought of some alien vessel coming across a mysterious object drifting across the unfathomable reaches of space, long after earth itself has disappeared - either through the sun's expansion millions of years hence, or after being incinerated as a result of the weird-haired leaders of North Korea and the USA dick-swinging during the early 21st century.
I like to imagine some Cape Canaveral technician thought about the inevitability of human actions rather than science obliterating our planet. Moments before blast-off he or she might well have swapped the Golden Record's original contents for something far more in keeping with humankind's traditional belligerence towards outsiders. Alien travellers would discover evidence of some mysterious long-lost civilisation epitomised by an Albertos Y Los Trios Paranoias B-side: 'Fuck You.'