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NASA, PBS marking 40 years since Voyager spacecraft launches

Forty years after blasting off, Earth's most distant ambassadors — the twin Voyager spacecraft — are carrying sounds and music of our planet ever deeper into the cosmos.

Think of them as messages in bottles meant for anyone — or anything — out there.

This Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of NASA's launch of Voyager 2, now almost 11 billion miles distant. It departed from Cape Canaveral on Aug. 20, 1977 to explore Jupiter and Saturn.

Voyager 1 followed a few weeks later and is ahead of Voyager 2. It's humanity's farthest spacecraft at 13 billion miles away and is the world's only craft to reach interstellar space, the vast mostly emptiness between star systems. Voyager 2 is expected to cross that boundary during the next few years.

Each carries a 12-inch, gold-plated copper phonograph record (there were no CDs or MP3s back then) containing messages from Earth: Beethoven's Fifth, chirping crickets, a baby's cry, a kiss, wind and rain, a thunderous moon rocket launch, African pygmy songs, Solomon Island panpipes, a Peruvian wedding song and greetings in dozens of languages. There are also more than 100 electronic images on each record showing 20th-century life, traffic jams and all.

NASA is marking the anniversary of its back-to-back Voyager launches with tweets, reminisces and still captivating photos of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune taken by the Voyagers from 1979 through the 1980s.

Public television is also paying tribute with a documentary, "The Farthest - Voyager in Space," airing Wednesday on PBS at 9 p.m. EDT.

The two-hour documentary describes the tense and dramatic behind-the-scenes effort that culminated in the wildly successful missions to our solar system's outer planets and beyond. More than 20 team members are interviewed, many of them long retired. There's original TV footage throughout, including a lookback at the late astronomer Carl Sagan of the 1980 PBS series "Cosmos." It also includes an interview with Sagan's son, Nick, who at 6 years old provided the English message: "Hello from the children of Planet Earth."

Planetary scientist Carolyn Porco — who joined Voyager's imaging team in 1980 — puts the mission up there with man's first moon landing.

"I consider Voyager to be the Apollo 11 of the planetary exploration program. It has that kind of iconic stature," Porco, a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

It was Sagan who, in large part, got a record aboard each Voyager. NASA was reluctant and did not want the records eclipsing the scientific goals. Sagan finally prevailed, but he and his fellow record promoters had less than two months to rustle everything up.

The identical records were the audio version of engraved plaques designed by Sagan and others for Pioneers 10 and 11, launched in 1972 and 1973.

The 55 greetings for the Voyager Golden Records were collected at Cornell University, where Sagan taught astronomy, and the United Nations in New York. The music production fell to science writer Timothy Ferris, a friend of Sagan living then in New York.

For the musical selections, Ferris and Sagan recruited friends along with a few professional musicians. They crammed in 90 minutes of music recorded at half-speed; otherwise it would have lasted just 45 minutes.

How to choose from an infinite number of melodies and melodious sounds representing all of Earth?

Beethoven, Bach and Mozart were easy picks. Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven represented jazz, Blind Willie Johnson gospel blues.

For the rock 'n' roll single, the group selected Chuck Berry's 1958 hit "Johnny B. Goode." Bob Dylan was a close runner-up, and the Beatles also rated high. Elvis Presley's name came up (Presley died four days before Voyager 2's launch). In the end, Ferris thought "Johnny B. Goode" best represented the origins and creativity of rock 'n' roll.

Ferris still believes it's "a terrific record" and he has no "deep regrets" about the selections. Even the rejected tunes represented "beautiful materials."

"It's like handfuls of diamonds. If you're concerned that you didn't get the right handful or something, it's probably a neurotic problem rather than anything to do with the diamonds," Ferris told the AP earlier this week.

But he noted: "If I were going to start into regrets, I suppose not having Italian opera would be on that list."

The whole record project cost $30,000 or $35,000, to the best of Ferris' recollection.

NASA estimated the records would last 1 billion to 3 billion years or more — potentially outliving human civilization.

For Ferris, it's time more than distance that makes the whole idea of finders-keepers so incomprehensible.

A billion years from now, "Voyager could be captured by an advanced civilization of beings that don't exist yet ... It's literally imponderable what will happen to the Voyagers," he said.

Shawn Mendes to headline return of ‘MTV Unplugged’

“MTV Unplugged” is returning to television, and Shawn Mendes will be the first singer to appear on the show, Variety reported.

>> Read more trending news

Mendes will appear in the season premiere in a performance shot at Los Angeles’ Theater at Ace Hotel. The show will air on Sept. 8, Variety reported.

Mendes currently holds the No. 1 spot in Top 40 radio with his single, “Nothing Holdin’ Me Back.”

“MTV Unplugged” ran on the music video station from 1989 to 2009 and featured artists playing acoustic versions of their songs. Past performers included Nirvana, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Eric Clapton.

Mendes told Variety he was excited to be a part of the show after seeing Pearl Jam’s 1992 session.

“It wasn't so much about the commercial, showman side of it; It was really about the music,” he said.

Acclaimed modernist architect Gunnar Birkerts dies at 92

Gunnar Birkerts, an internationally acclaimed modernist architect who designed buildings including the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis, the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, and the University of Michigan Law Library, has died. He was 92.

His son, Sven Birkerts, said his father died Tuesday of congestive heart failure at his home in Needham, Massachusetts.

Birkerts was born in Riga, Latvia, on Jan. 17, 1925, but fled during World War II when he was in his teens. He made his way to Stuttgart, Germany, where he began studying architecture. In 1949, Birkerts emigrated to the United States. He was based in the Detroit area for much of his career and worked for several different architecture firms before he and a colleague, Frank Straub, founded Birkerts and Straub in 1962. He eventually went on to lead his own firm, Gunnar Birkerts and Associates, for decades. He also taught architecture at the University of Michigan from 1959-1990.

Birkerts was widely known for his use of light in his designs.

Some of his other notable buildings include the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, the IBM headquarters in Sterling Forest, New York, and the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela.

His final work, the National Library of Latvia in Riga, opened in 2014 and is now widely known as "The Castle of Light." The American Institute of Architects awarded the library its 2017 Library Building Award.

Birkerts is survived by his wife, Sylvia, a fellow Latvian who he met in Germany and married in 1950, their three children and seven grandchildren.

Top 20 Global Concert Tours from Pollstar

TOP 20 GLOBAL CONCERT TOURS

1. U2; $8,295,222; $115.99.

2. Coldplay; $8,070,880; $87.86.

3. Guns N' Roses; $6,229,677; $101.95.

4. Metallica; $4,529,263; $109.00.

5. Celine Dion; $3,799,468; $146.79.

6. Justin Bieber; $2,972,507; $93.08.

7. Depeche Mode; $2,933,439; $74.82.

8. Dead & Company; $1,934,271; $73.49.

9. Roger Waters; $1,706,432; $125.80.

10. Ed Sheeran; $1,595,189; $82.53.

11. Bruno Mars; $1,503,181; $76.69.

12. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers; $1,393,492; $88.16.

13. The Weeknd; $1,380,811; $90.42.

14. Enrique Iglesias / Pitbull ; $1,174,827; $90.94.

15. Neil Diamond; $1,167,620; $95.38.

16. Tim McGraw / Faith Hill; $1,158,187; $87.65.

17. Tool; $1,077,322; $77.19.

18. Red Hot Chili Peppers; $1,052,694; $83.57.

19. John Mayer; $1,004,306; $71.91.

20. Eric Church; $1,003,316; $64.71.

For free upcoming tour information, go to www.pollstar.com

___

Cafe no longer being probed in death of Chris Berman's wife

Connecticut officials say they have closed an investigation of a restaurant after finding no violations in connection with a car crash that killed the wife of longtime ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman.

The state Liquor Control Division investigated whether 67-year-old Katherine Berman was served alcohol at the Good News Cafe in Woodbury before the May 9 crash. Officials announced Thursday that no violations were found.

Restaurant owner Carole Peck said the cafe was closed on the day of the accident.

State police and liquor control officials are still investigating the crash.

Katherine Berman, of Cheshire, was killed when her vehicle hit the rear of an SUV and flipped over in Woodbury. The 87-year-old SUV driver also died.

The results of toxicology tests on Katherine Berman have not been released.

Spotify pulls white supremacist music from the service

Spotify pulled more than three dozen artists and bands from the streaming music service after they were identified as supporting ideas of white supremacy in a post on a music news site.

>> Read more trending news 

The post, published Monday on DigitalMusicNews.com, identified dozens of musicians and groups on the streaming music platform that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) had named “hate bands” in a 2014 list

According to Digital Music News, the SPLC compiled the list in an effort to urge Apple to remove the bands’ music from its platform.

The music news site found at least eight other related bands on Spotify with help from its algorithm for recommended music and artists.

“In the wake of violent clashes in Charlottesville and an increasingly vocal, post-Trump white supremacy voice, the presence of white supremacy music on Spotify takes on a different light,” Digital Music News writer Paul Resnikoff wrote in an effort to call attention to Spotify’s musical offering.

Less than 24 hours after the article was published, Spotify scrapped the music from its platform.

“Illegal content or material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us,” a Spotify spokesperson said. “Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention. We are glad to have been alerted to this content and have already removed many of the bands identified ... whilst urgently reviewing the remainder.”

According to CNN, Spotify uses government lists of offensive music and bands to help police its platform. 

The streaming service said it would review any content “that is in clear violation of (Spotify’s) internal guidelines which includes content that clearly incites hatred or violence,” CNN reported.

Read more at DigitalMusicNews.comCNN and Billboard.

LeToya Luckett engaged a year after divorce

Former Destiny’s Child member LeToya Luckett has a lot to celebrate.

A year after ending her marriage to relationship expert Rob Hill Sr., she is engaged to a new man she has quietly been dating.

Essence reported that, according to photos and videos posted on Instagram, the original member of Destiny’s Child became engaged to Dallas entrepreneur Tommicus Walker after throwing him a surprise birthday party.

Luckett confirmed the news on her own Instagram page early Thursday.

“I said , ‘Yes yeeeesssss’ on his Burfday!” she captioned the photo.

In August 2016, TMZ reported that the “In the Name of Love” singer quietly got  a divorce after getting married in January “but split after just 2 months and change.”

Ebony reported that Luckett’s brother, Gavin Luckett, posted a video of the proposal on his Instagram page hours after Luckett confirmed the news.

From the video, it’s clear Luckett got a hefty-looking sparkler that she was happy to show off. 

Congrats to the couple!

HBO regains control of hacked social media accounts

HBO says it has regained control of its social media accounts after the latest security breach to hit the entertainment company.

The hacking group OurMine on Wednesday night took over several of HBO's Twitter accounts, including ones for "Game of Thrones" and John Oliver's show. The group posted that "we are just testing your security" and asked HBO to contact it for an upgrade.

HBO said in a statement Thursday that "the infringement on our social media accounts was recognized and rectified quickly." It declined further comment.

OurMine has a history of similar hacks showing companies' security vulnerabilities.

It caused far less damage and appeared unrelated to another group of hackers who broke into HBO's computer network and have been doling out stolen information and unaired episodes for several weeks.

Johnny Depp surprises patients at British Columbia Children’s Hospital

Captain Jack Sparrow left the high seas for a special meet and greet.

But it wasn’t some look-alike.

It was Jack Sparrow himself, er, make that Johnny Depp.

>> Read more trending news 

Depp, who has been known to visit hospitals around the world dressed as his pirate alter ego, stopped by BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, Monday to bring smiles to the patients and their families.

He spent more than 5 ½ hours meeting with kids from the oncology, general pediatrics and neurology areas.

The starstruck children and parents said that he never broke character and spent time making each child feel special.

The hospital treats 86,000 children each year and is the province’s only full-service acute care pediatric hospital.

Usher was with Jermaine Dupri and Brian Michael Cox in the studio

Could Usher be working a new album?

More confessions?

Via Love B Scott:

Usher’s made headlines in recent weeks for ALL the wrong reasons, but he wants us to know he’s hard at work on his next album.

While we’ve been expecting some type of statement from Usher denying (or confirming) the herpes allegations, he just might be holding out and using this as an opportunity to drop a “ Confessions Pt. 3.”

Check out Jermaine Dupri’s Ig post below:

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