• Jimmy Carter was in the White House.

    Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors" was the number one album in America.

    Muhammad Ali was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world.

    And a tiny spacecraft named Voyager 1 had just launched for the stars.

    Actually, not the stars, more like planets; its initial mission aimed at exploring Jupiter and Saturn, but then Voyager just kept going and going.

    Past Jupiter.

    Past Saturn.

    Then Uranus.

    Then Neptune.

    Then Pluto.

    Then on. And on. And on.

    Until news just now 36 years after Elvis had left the building.

    Voyager 1 has left the solar system.

    And reached interstellar space.

    Further than any man has ever gone.

    Further than any man-made object has ever tried.

    Not bad for a radioactive-powered craft transmitting information back to earth using a 23-watt signal, and, get this, an 8-track digital tape recorder playing back data every six months.

    Still chugging. Still beeping.

    Even if no human is listening.

    But I wonder who might be.

    Because onboard Voyager 1 is a special disc, what they called at the time, "the golden record."

    And I mean a real record, with a cartridge and needle the whole works loaded with everything your average alien might want to know about Earth.

    Greetings in dozens of languages, a message from President Carter, and a 90-minute music selection that covers everything from Bach to Chuck Berry.

    As it beats a silent path through black space.

    Humankind's imprint now 12 billion miles from humankind's footprint.

    Beaming away to anyone or anything that might be listening.

    And wondering, just wondering, what to make of these strange creatures who built this, and sent this.

    From this tiny planet, in this tiny corner, of this vast cosmic sea.

    Beckoning. Calling. Singing.

    In the deepest black of space where you cannot breathe.

    I don't know about you but it leaves me breathless.

    That with all our troubles on Earth, then and now, we are capable of great things.

    All is not hopeless.