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No, a Map NASA Sent to Space Is Not Dangerous to Earth

Let’s be clear: The map to Earth that NASA sent into space aboard the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft is not dangerous. It certainly hasn’t “made it a lot easier for aliens to attack Earth,” it won’t “lead to extraterrestrials taking over” our planet, and no one is rethinking this “unintended ‘foolish’ act.” These claims, which have been seeping through the news media over the past 24 hours, are based on a misinterpretation of a story we published about this map in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Voyager launches. That story describes how 14 known pulsars can be used as galactic signposts to help aliens find Earth, should the spacecraft bearing them across the cosmos be intercepted in the near future. As part of reporting that story, I interviewed my dad, Frank Drake, who created the map in 1971. During our conversation, we talked about how the pulsar map might fit into the current debate about deliberately sending messages to extraterrestrial civilizations. His answer: “In those days, all the people I dealt with were optimists, and they thought the ETs would be friendly,” Drake says. “Nobody thought, even for a few seconds, about whether this might be a dangerous thing to do.” All this statement means is that today’s debate was not occurring in the 1970s. It’s several cosmic leaps of logic between that and fearing “this decision could prove to be disastrous,” or that he’s having reservations “about the decision to guide aliens to Earth,” or that he is suggesting “the maps could be dangerous.”

Read More: Nat Geo

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