The Voyager Probes May Be The Closest Humanity Gets to Immortality. Here's Why

Voyager 1 is the human-made object that has traveled the furthest from Earth. It is currently over 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometers) from Earth in interstellar space, having passed through Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

In the form of its Golden Records, Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, contain little shards of mankind.
There are spoken greetings in 55 languages, sounds and sights from nature, an album of recordings and photos from other civilizations, and a written word of welcome from Jimmy Carter, who was president of the United States at the time the spaceship departed Earth in 1977.

The Golden Records were designed to survive a billion years in space, but scientists determined that they may endure billions of years without traveling close to any stars in a recent examination of the courses and dangers these explorers may experience.

I've spent my career working at the intersection of religion and science, so I've given a lot of attention to how spiritual notions interact with scientific advancements. The Voyager spacecraft's amazing lifetime provides a unique entrance point for examining themes of immortality.

For many individuals, immortality refers to the after-death existence of a soul or spirit. It can also refer to the preservation of one's memories and documents. Each Voyager leaves such a legacy with its Golden Record, but only if it is discovered and valued by an extraterrestrial civilisation in the far future.

Life after death

Immortality is a topic on which many religious views exist. Most faiths envision a personal soul's or spirit's postmortem profession, which might range from perpetual residency among the stars to reincarnation.

For many Christians and Muslims, the ideal everlasting existence is to spend eternity in God's presence in heaven or paradise.

The teachings of Judaism on what happens after death are less clear. The deceased are described in the Hebrew Bible as "shades" in a shadowy land called Sheol. Some rabbinical leaders believe in the immortality of souls and the resurrection of the pious.

Individual immortality is not possible. It can also be a group effort. For many Jews, the nation of Israel's or its people's ultimate fate is of crucial importance. Many Christians believe that those who have died will be resurrected at some point in the future, and that God's kingdom will come to those who are loyal.

Jimmy Carter, a progressive Southern Baptist whose message and autograph are recorded in the Golden Records, is a living example of Christian longing for immortality.

He has considered dying as he battles brain cancer and approaches centenarian status. Carter said in a sermon following his diagnosis: "It didn't matter to me whether I died or lived. … My Christian faith includes complete confidence in life after death. So I'm going to live again after I die."

It's reasonable to assume that the possibility of an extraterrestrial viewing the Golden Record and learning of Carter's identity billions of years from now would provide only modest additional comfort to him.

Carter's understanding of his final fate reflects his great belief in his soul's immortality. He most likely symbolizes individuals of many religions in this way.

Secular immortality

An appeal to the presence of a soul or spirit after death provides little comfort to secular or nonreligious persons. 

"I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking," Carl Sagan, who came up with the idea for the Golden Records and oversaw their production, wrote about the afterlife.

He was more concerned about losing out on essential life events, such as watching his children grow up, than he was about his conscious self being obliterated when his brain died.

Other alternatives for immortality exist for people like Sagan. They include body freezing and preservation for eventual physical resurrection, as well as uploading one's consciousness and transforming it into a digital form that would survive the brain.

Neither of these potential paths to physical immortality has proved to be feasible yet.

The Voyagers and legacy

Most individuals, secular or religious, desire their activities while living to have lasting value as their legacy. People want to be recognized, treasured, and acknowledged. "To live in the hearts we leave behind is to live forever," Sagan summed it up nicely.

Voyagers 1 and 2 are approximately as immortal as human artifacts go, with an expected lifespan of over a trillion years.

All living species, mountains, oceans, and forests will have been wiped long before the Sun's projected extinction when it runs out of fuel in around 5 billion years. It will be as if we, together with all of planet Earth's magnificent and lavish beauty, never existed — a terrifying notion for me.

However, the two Voyager spacecraft will still be floating in space in the far future, waiting to be discovered by an intelligent extraterrestrial culture for which the Golden Records' messages were meant. Only such documents are likely to survive as Earth's witness and legacy, granting them objective immortality.

Religious and spiritual persons might take comfort in the conviction that after death, God or an afterlife awaits them. Any awakened and thankful extraterrestrial will have to suffice for the secular dreaming that someone or something would remember mankind.
The Voyager Probes May Be The Closest Humanity Gets to Immortality. Here's Why The Voyager Probes May Be The Closest Humanity Gets to Immortality. Here's Why Reviewed by Lilit on May 26, 2022 Rating: 5
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