Voyager exits solar system with a ‘Namaste’

As India celebrates its maiden Mars mission, here is another feat achieved by Voyager 1, the historic spacecraft launched 36 years ago by NASA, to find other forms of life — extraterrestrials. As on November 5, 2013, the spacecraft is the farthest man-made object from earth and interestingly, Voyager has a Kannada connection. Aboard this space probe is a recorded message of a Kannadiga — greetings to the aliens. The man who sent the 4.08 second one-liner is a professor teaching in a Californian University and hailing from a small coastal town of Karnataka.  Currently on a teaching assignment to Mexico, 63-year-old Prof Shrinivasa K Upadhyaya of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, University of California, Davis is elated over Voyager’s milestone and his Kannada message, considering Kannada was one among the 55 languages selected for this mission including nine Indian languages. Voyager 1 is a 722-kg space probe launched by NASA on September 5, 1977, to study the outer solar system. Operating for 36 years, one month, and 29 days now, the spacecraft has left the solar system, and is at a distance of about 1.893×10 (to the power of 10) km from the earth and at 19 billion kms from the sun, it is the farthest manmade object from earth to venture into interstellar space.  The space probe carries a gold-plated audio-visual disc in case the spacecraft is ever found by intelligent life forms from other planetary systems. Called Voyager Golden Records, the disc has sounds and images to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. The contents of the record were selected by a committee chaired by Dr Carl Sagan of Cornell University. Sagan and his associates assembled 116 images and a variety of natural sounds — those made by surf, wind, thunder and animals; added musical selections from different cultures and eras, spoken greetings in 55 languages and printed messages from the then US president Mr Jimmy Carter.  Among them is a brief one-liner message in Kannada: Namaste, Kannadigara Paravagi Shubhashayagalu. The translation being: Greetings, on behalf of Kannada-speaking people, good wishes. Apart from this, other Indian languages in which greetings were sent are Punjabi, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi, Gujarati, Oriya, Marathi, Telugu and Rajasthani. As a 26-year-old, pursuing a doctorate in Cornell University, Prof Upadhyaya was selected to represent Kannada as the language was considered unique by the Sagan committee for the Golden Record project. “The team was looking to include as many languages as possible to represent greetings from our planet. In those days, there were not many Kannada speaking people in the US. At Cornell, I was the only Kannadiga in 1976, I think. Luckily for me, I was at the right place at the right time. I was selected and the recording happened in an audio-visual laboratory at Cornell,” says Prof  Upadhyaya over an email tote-a-tote with Bangalore Mirror.  Prof Upadhyaya has his roots in village Kumbhashi in Udupi district and was among seven siblings. He studied in a local school and went to attend high school in Koteshwar. Upto SSLC, his education was in his mother-tongue, Kannada. Subsequently, after completing engineering from IIT Kharagpur, he moved to the US for higher studies and joined the University for teaching. He is settled in the US for over 30 years, with wife Mrs Jayashree Upadhyaya and two children. Even the aliens are now aware of this true-blue Kannadiga, who loves to begin and end his conversations with a Namaste.


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