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A replica by the original craftsman & reissue of NASA’s Pioneer Plaque, honoring the design by Frank Drake, Carl Sagan & Linda Salzman.
A replica by the original craftsman and reissue of NASA’s Pioneer Plaque, honoring the design by Frank Drake, Carl Sagan and Linda Salzman Sagan.
A replica by the original craftsman and reissue of NASA’s Pioneer Plaque, honoring the design by Frank Drake, Carl Sagan and Linda Salzman Sagan.
1,927 backers pledged $286,942 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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Pioneer Plaque: A Message from Earth

$286,942

1,927

On March 3rd, 1972, NASA launched Pioneer 10 into space to study our solar system and beyond.

Aboard the spacecraft was the Pioneer Plaque, one of the most ambitious pieces of communication ever conceived, serving as a “galactic greeting card”—should any extraterrestrial life come across it.

Today, there are only three plaques in the universe, two of which are billions of kilometers away from our planet, while the third is in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Now, I’m bringing the plaque back to Earth.

Fast Co. Design • Space.com • Collect Space • Seeker • Astronomy Magazine • Scientific American • Boing Boing • Design Week • My Modern Met • Smithsonian • Popular Mechanics

Carl Sagan holding the Pioneer plaque
Carl Sagan holding the Pioneer plaque

“It will be the oldest artifact of mankind. Because a billion years from now, mountain building and erosion will have destroyed everything on the Earth, but this plaque will remain intact.” —Carl Sagan

The Plaque

The gold-anodized aluminum Pioneer plaque was launched in 1972 and 1973 aboard NASA’s twin spacecraft, Pioneer 10 and 11, respectively. Pioneer 10 was the first to complete its mission to soar by Jupiter. Pioneer 11 followed, studying the asteroid belt, the environment around Jupiter and Saturn, solar wind, cosmic rays, and eventually the far reaches of the Solar System and heliosphere.

Plaque location on the Pioneer 10 spacecraft
Plaque location on the Pioneer 10 spacecraft
View of Jupiter from Pioneer 10
View of Jupiter from Pioneer 10

The plaque, designed by Frank Drake and Carl Sagan with artwork prepared by Linda Salzman Sagan, was identically bolted to Pioneer 10 and 11’s antenna supports. Designed to show scientifically educated inhabitants of some other star system—who might intercept it millions of years from now—each plaque portrays when Pioneer was launched, from where, and by what kind of beings.

The Replica and the Reissue

My name is Duane King and I am a creative director and designer obsessed with the cosmos and galactic exploration. 

This fascination began in my early childhood as I drew spacecraft while watching the TV show, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage with Carl Sagan. It grew into a passion that continues to this day, and I’ve amassed an incredible collection of space memorabilia. But none have sparked my creative spirit or curiosity more than the Pioneer plaque.

Put simply, the plaque is an expression of the vision and adventurous spirit that defines humanity at its best, and working with the plaque has been a lifelong dream of mine. So I set out to make a replica for myself. As I researched, I stumbled across a documentary that featured the plaque. Watching, I glimpsed the craftsman's hands at work on it—and I suddenly realized that I might be able to find him! I Googled for leads and soon located the company I suspected had made the plaques. Google Street View showed the exterior of his trophy shop, Precision Engravers, in San Carlos, California. And in the corner of the trophy-filled window was a sign that read “Home of the Pioneer plaque.” Astonished, I called and found the very craftsman behind the original—Ponciano Barbosa. Now, he is incredibly excited about this project too!

After making a prototype for myself, I was struck by the realization that there were only three other plaques, near and far, in our universe. And then there was the one I held in my hands. It was amazing, even magical. I had to share the opportunity to feel this way.

Replica (left) and reissue (right)
Replica (left) and reissue (right)

The world could use a little more hope—and the Pioneer plaque is gold-anodized optimism. So, in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the launch of Pioneer 10, I have decided to create a historically accurate reproduction of the plaque.

Through this campaign, I will offer 200 plaque replicas, each manually engraved from the master craftsman's original 1972 design. I’ve emphasized every detail in order to create the most accurate, quality replicas ever made.

Details of the plaque in production
Details of the plaque in production

I want the plaque to reach everyone who shares my passion for the Pioneer missions. That’s why I’m also reissuing a laser-etched aluminum edition.

Replicas are engraved from the original master templates
Replicas are engraved from the original master templates

The laser-etched aluminum reissue maintains the same beautiful design, so that everyone can enjoy this symbol of hope and curiosity: a piece of history of your very own.

The Details

Both the replica and reissue plaques will come wrapped in a beautiful tissue paper made from blueprints of Pioneer 10.

Tissue paper form restored blueprints
Tissue paper form restored blueprints

Each plaque will also be delivered in a gorgeous paper case foil-stamped with the golden Pioneer diagram on the exterior along with the launch dates and locations of Pioneer 10 and 11 on the interior. For the replicas, I will also be including cancelled Pioneer Jupiter stamps within each package. Overall, the packaging is perfect for either storage or display.

Plaque packaging with full color tray art
Plaque packaging with full color tray art
Tray art and foil-stamping detail
Tray art and foil-stamping detail
The replicas will include cancelled Pioneer Jupiter stamps within each package
The replicas will include cancelled Pioneer Jupiter stamps within each package
Engraving details
Engraving details
Gold foil-stamping on exterior and interior
Gold foil-stamping on exterior and interior
The Pioneer plaque is gold-anodized optimism
The Pioneer plaque is gold-anodized optimism

— 

What the Plaque Means

At the top left of the plaque is a schematic of the hyperfine transition of neutral atomic hydrogen––a universal ‘yardstick’––providing a basic unit of both time and physical length throughout the physical universe. As a further size check, the binary equivalent of the decimal number 8 is shown between tote marks indicating the height of the two human figures pictured to be compared with the scale of the spacecraft itself, which is also shown in the silhouette on the plaque. The hydrogen wavelength––about 21 cm (8 inches)––multiplied by the binary number representing 8 alongside the woman, gives her height, namely 168 cm (66 inches).

Hyperfine transition of neutral hydrogen
Hyperfine transition of neutral hydrogen

The radial pattern will help other scientists locate our solar system in the galaxy. The solid bars indicate distance, with the horizontal bar denoting the distance from the Sun to the galactic center. The shorter solid bars represent direction and distances to various pulsars from our Sun, and the ticks following them are the periods of the pulsars in binary form.

Position of the Sun relative to fourteen pulsars
Position of the Sun relative to fourteen pulsars

Below the orientation diagram, as a further aid to identification should the spacecraft be intercepted while our Solar System is still in the galactic records, there is a diagram showing relative distances of the solar planets and identifying the ringed planet Saturn and the planet from which Pioneer originated. After accelerating past the largest planet as shown by a track, the spacecraft is depicted with its antenna pointing back to its origin on the third planet.

Planets of the solar system and binary relative distances
Planets of the solar system and binary relative distances

Finally, the plaque depicts man and woman in what to humans is a characteristic gesture of friendliness but also shows how limbs can be moved and displays the important four fingers and opposing thumb. The figures and physiognomy were carefully chosen and drawn for ethnic neutrality, and no attempt is made to explain to an alien intelligence what may be mysterious differences between two physical types—man and woman.

Humans in proportion to the Pioneer spacecraft
Humans in proportion to the Pioneer spacecraft

“The mysterious part is the man and the woman to the right of the plaque. And they will be mysterious because there will not be men and women anywhere else.” ––Carl Sagan

The Specs

Pioneer plaque replica 

Material: 6061 T6 gold-anodized aluminum 
Dimensions: 22.86 × 15.24 cm (6 × 9 in)
Thickness: 1.27 mm (0.05 in)
Imprint: Manually engraved by the original manufacturer in the USA

Pioneer plaque reissue 

Material: 6061 T6 gold-anodized aluminum 
Dimensions: 22.86 × 15.24 cm (6 × 9 in)
Thickness: 1.27 mm (0.05 in) 
Imprint: Laser engraved in the USA

Why Kickstarter?

There’s something inherently democratic about space, inside all its dreaminess and mystery. It allows for so many interpretations while emphasizing the natural curiosity and exploring nature of humanity. That’s why I thought Kickstarter would be the perfect place to launch this project.

A billion years from now, everything we’ve created on Earth will crumble to dust. But the Pioneer plaques will still be out there, floating in space or at home somewhere new. And now, you can bring home an interstellar cave painting of your very own.

Let's bring the Pioneer Plaque home to Earth.

 

NASA solar system illustration by Rick Guidice
NASA solar system illustration by Rick Guidice
Pioneer 10 crossing the asteroid belt, Illustration by Rick Guidice
Pioneer 10 crossing the asteroid belt, Illustration by Rick Guidice
Jupiter's gravity was used to slingshot Pioneer 10 to the outer planets, Illustration by Rick Guidice
Jupiter's gravity was used to slingshot Pioneer 10 to the outer planets, Illustration by Rick Guidice

 —

Credits

Creator

Duane King, kingduane.com

Campaign

Vann Alexandra, vannalexandra.com

Photography

Images by Jasen Bowes, elsevvhere.com

Consultant

Consulting by Carolyn Wood, pixelingo.com

Video

Motion by Laura Whipps Frastaci, laurafrastaci.com
Videography by Searle Video, searlevideo.com
Music by Elliot Callighan, marmosetmusic.com

Website

Development & Strategy by Marc Ammann and Josh Redshaw, pxnw.co

Special Thanks

Carl Sagan photograph supplied by the Department of Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

NASA: Jupiter Odyssey (CMP 243) footage supplied by Periscope Film LLC.

This campaign is not sponsored or endorsed by NASA.

Risks and challenges

As always with manufacturing a product, it’s possible to come across production delays. However, I am in close contact with the original manufacturer who is the only person with experience creating these plaques, so I am confident he and I will be able to deliver. I have a prototype of the plaque and it’s absolutely perfect.

Of course, should anything go awry, I plan on being completely open with all backers. Communication is critical when recreating one of the most ambitious pieces of communication ever conceived!

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    Pioneer Plaque Reissue

    Reissue plaque, laser-engraved by machine on 6061 T6 gold-anodized aluminum in the USA. Packaged in a case suitable for storage or display.

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    Pioneer Plaque Replica

    Replica plaque, manually engraved on 6061 T6 gold-anodized aluminum by the original craftsman in the USA. Packaged in a case suitable for storage or display. Free shipping in the contiguous US.

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- (30 days)