The Farthest (2017)

Screen Shot 2017-09-16 at 22.26.42In 1977. Voyagers 1 and 2 were launched to explore our solar system. In the 20 years that followed, they sent back fabulous pictures and data on the other planets and their moons, vastly expanding our knowledge of other worlds. Having done their job, they are now heading out into interstellar space and will encounter other stars in approximately 40,000 years time. They are still sending messages and images back.

In The Farthest (2017) this mission, and the people behind it, receive the attention they deserve. One of the curiosities is that 6 weeks before the launch it was decided to send a metal LP with encoded songs, messages and images (only 100 photos) in the event that other life forms should intercept the crafts. Chuck Berry is the representative of modern western music. And much to many people’s consternation, images of naked people were included to inform aliens about our anatomy. 

If memory serves – and this was not alluded to in the documentary – the English-language message of welcome to alien civilisations was recorded by ex-Nazi Kurt Waldheim.

The question remains, do we want extra-planetary species to know about our existence and whereabouts? It is cheerfully optimistic to expect a tea party. As many dystopians have pointed out in recent years, the likelihood is that any alien species will be as rapacious as ourselves and our little Voyager invitation to them will be nothing less than an Invitation to a Beheading – namely, ours.

At any rate, an excellent documentary about one of the most marvellous scientific ventures of the 20th century.

© 2017 Adrian Mathews