The Pioneer Plaque

Last week the students of ICON were put into discipline specific groups – computer scientists with other computer scientists, biologists with other biologists, etc. – and tasked with trying to decipher the message contained within an image.

The image, known as the Pioneer Plaque, was attached to the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 satellites that were shot into space in 1972 and 1973. The goal of the image was to provide a message about humanity to any intelligent alien life who might stumble on them. The full message can be found here – but before reading it, look at the image below and try to figure out what the message was intended to be.


After you’ve read what the message was about, ask yourself the following questions. Was the message clear? What knowledge or experience did we need to know to understand it? What do we assume the intended audience needs to know to understand it? What information does the medium and manner in which the message was delivered provide?

All of these questions were posed to the ICON students, and these are some of the observations they made.


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