How a group of athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics were immortalized on the Voyager space mission



“Don’t come back without a victory!

As the gold record team hastily assembled their album of pictures of humanity, they couldn’t escape the politics of the day; the late 1970s was the middle of the cold war. The fact that these American scientists and researchers included such a prominent image of a Soviet icon, Borzov, is a testament to the integrity of their mission statement.

As he made his final selections, Lomberg felt that the presence of Rigby and Borzov, an American and a Soviet so prominently in adjacent images, provided an element of balance and fairness.

However, given how extremely competitive the two programs were during the Space Race, he often wondered if the Soviets would have granted America the same courtesy – if the gold record had been compiled behind. the iron Curtain.

For any form of extraterrestrial life in the distant future, such a detail will not matter, but the gesture was not lost on Borzov himself; he remembers how Communist Party members tried to motivate the Soviet team in 1972, saying, “It’s a golden jubilee, 50 years since the formation of the Soviet Union! You are entering the enemy’s lair! Don’t come back without a win! “

He had traveled the world before and explained, “We knew better than they did how Americans really behave. I remember what was good – a hot dog and a glass of Coke. We didn’t need that kind of rhetoric instilled in us before we left.

“We knew better than they did how Americans really behave. I remember what was good – a hot dog and a glass of Coke. We didn’t need that kind of rhetoric instilled in us before we left.

Valeriy borzov

Borzov was vaguely aware that his image was associated with Project Voyager, but only because some local journalists reported on it several years later. And until CNN contacted him, he had never seen the photo.

Surprisingly, he doesn’t particularly like it, exclaiming, “This isn’t the best photo!”

“First, the race position is not the best. The starting position is when the muscles are visible and there is a certain posture where you can see power and character – it’s kind of a frame between moments. He continued, “I don’t like these photographs and this is one of the preliminary races, a work in progress, not historic. This is not the final blow.

Nevertheless, he wondered Why he was chosen. Without asking, he volunteered to have run like a clean athlete, without resorting to the doping techniques that marred much of the Soviet sports program. “I wasn’t bloated,” he said, noting that you can tell the difference between “a runny rooster and a broiler chicken”.

Perhaps he was chosen for his racing style, which – in his words – could be described as “classic, light and endowed with great power and intelligence”. Or maybe it was his versatile character, his “unification of power, sportsmanship, physical, intellectual, psychological and other gentlemanly qualities.”

Borzov is now learning the truth about how and why he was sent to the stars and his reaction is humble and earthly: “To be told you are flying outside of our civilization would be a kick to a sane person. But most importantly, it’s a compliment from the Americans. It deserves both praise and gratitude. “

“It’s something that really touched me, and it’s something that cannot be measured.”


Of all the Voyager athletes, it’s clear that Rigby has the best understanding of the project; it’s something she spent quite a bit of time thinking about.

Like Roberts, she wishes she had been asked, but only so that she could watch the launch and enjoy it in the moment. “I would have said yes anyway,” she added quickly.

“I was blown away,” she said. “I don’t mention it often and I don’t know why I don’t, because besides being born, having children and dying, it’s the deepest thing I can imagine in life. a person’s life because you are a representative. of humanity.

“It’s like an adventure where you got into it and you’re just like, ‘Wow, why me?'”

After retiring from his gymnastics career in 1972, Rigby spent the rest of his life performing on stage. It’s sort of fitting that she became known to play Peter Pan, the fictional character of JM Barrie – the boy who could fly among the stars.

She is inspired by this character to try to find the words: “It’s a dream, as Peter Pan says, this great adventure of which you will never know what ultimately happens.”

Where are they now? Four sprinters and a gymnast reflect on this “great adventure”


In their own way, the five athletes had post-Olympic careers that provided insights into the lives of others. Rigby continued to perform in musical theater and now teaches children with special needs; Roberts has taught physical education for over four decades; Moorosi worked with the Lesotho Department of Education and Sports; Su became a professor of health management in Taiwan; Borzov was a minister and a legislator.
Ethan Miller / Getty Images

“It’s just not something you can figure out,” she continued. “But your heart can and your imagination can, and it makes you tingle.”

While Voyager athletes were chosen to help teach other worlds our own, many of them eventually found this profession here on Earth.

Roberts has taught physical education for over four decades; for some time after the Olympics, Moorosi worked with the government of Lesotho in their education and sports department, and Su became a professor of health management in Taiwan. Borzov was a minister and a legislator, and all of them, in their own way, were pioneers.

Rigby now works with children with special needs. “I find my favorite thing is when these kids have that ‘aha moment’, when all of a sudden they’re doing something they thought was impossible. And they look at you and say “what just happened?”




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