Science

NASA to aliens: Stay tuned for a group message from humanity

Above: Artist conceptualization of the unsuspecting New Horizons spacecraft

Apparently, NASA doesn’t worry too much that hostile aliens might receive a message from Earth and say, in so many of their word-forms, “Thanks for the invitation.”

That must be the attitude of this most optimistic of governmental agencies, considering news that the New Horizons spacecraft is expected to carry a digital greeting from our species as it heads out of our solar system.

Right now, New Horizons is somewhere beyond Jupiter, hurtling toward a flyby of ex-planet Pluto in about a year. Launched in 2006, the probe’s job description includes taking the first close photos of Pluto’s surface and, after that, exploration of the asteroid-and-planetoid traffic jam otherwise known as the Kuiper Belt.

At that point, the plan is to transmit a digital message representing humanity to the craft, safely tucked inside until some alien can read it and decide whether we’re worth invading.

The previous four Earth-born objects to leave the solar system — Pioneers 10 and 11 and Voyagers 1 and 2 — all carried greetings for extraterrestrials. The Pioneers had message plaques, and the Voyagers bore Golden Records. So we didn’t want the aliens to think, when they gobbled up New Horizons, that we weren’t still thinking of them.

Last September, the Hawaii-based New Horizons Message Initiative (NHMI) launched a petition to transmit a One Earth message to New Horizons.

The effort was conceived and developed by astronomical artist Jon Lomberg, who was the design director for the Voyager Golden Records and a collaborator of astronomer and science educator Carl Sagan. He announced in May that, in response to the petition, NASA has given thumbs up to the project.

The plaques and records, however, were intended to last eons, while the computer storage of the message on New Horizons is expected to last only a few decades — unless, of course, the aliens have some killer message-recovering tech.

NHMI wants the 100MB message to represent a self-portrait of planet Earth, although it’s not yet clear if the planet can sit still long enough to get a good one. To make what NHMI is calling the digital “human fingerprint” will require the combined effort of scientists, artists, writers, musicians, entertainers, and “the input of people from every walk of life and many different perspectives.”

The names of the first 10,000 humans who signed the petition to NASA will also be included in the message. Content finalists will be determined by online voting — but, fortunately for Earth’s reputation out there, NHMI and NASA will have final approval.

At the very least, the alien recipients might get an enjoyable relief from their weird life.

The collection and merging of those many content contributions over the next three years will cost about $500,000, which will be entirely funded with non-NASA money via a Kickstarter campaign conducted by NHMI. It is expected to kick off in August.

Via Wired

More information:

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9 comments
Charles Drew
Charles Drew

I think I'd go with Hawking's logic in that any alien race capable of travelling here or even communicating with us from interstellar distances is far more advanced. They would treat us like we treat ants and other lower animals. We step on ants and don't give a glancing thought about it.

Klancy Kennedy
Klancy Kennedy

Hopefully it will be more intelligently organized than our previous messages. The stuff we've broadcast before was not well thought out, and I think that's gravely disappointing since it originated from the scientific community. We can do better.

Max Brown
Max Brown

Organically reared humans might be quite tasty.

America Blows
America Blows

"To make what NHMI is calling the digital “human fingerprint” will require the combined effort of scientists, artists, writers, musicians, entertainers, and “the input of people from every walk of life and many different perspectives.”"

Yeah right.  Not including the rest of the 99% and their opinions. 
ie:  You and I have no say because those who think they're better than us, think they're better than us.  They believe because they think they are smarter that they have the RIGHT to speak for us, and they absolutely do NOT.  "Oh gee, I'm an entertainer.  I'm so great."  I don't think so.  These people think they reign here on Earth because they think that because they have more money than you and I, that makes them better.  Well, it doesn't. The capitalist monetary concerns of this planet do not concern aliens.  Those that appreciate life, will not see the almighty dollar as being better than it.  To you who wrote this audacious piece of crap story, you can go screw yourself.  You are not God, and neither is any one of you who deems yourself to be so great, such as an 'entertainer,' a 'scientist,' a 'musician,' or other.  In universal terms, you mean NOTHING.

America Blows
America Blows

"To make what NHMI is calling the digital “human fingerprint” will require the combined effort of scientists, artists, writers, musicians, entertainers, and “the input of people from every walk of life and many different perspectives.”"

Yeah right.  Not including the rest of the 99% and their opinions. 

Maury Andrews
Maury Andrews

Aren't there any scientists in NASA who believe in empirical proof?  And Naturalists accuse the religious folk of believing in a sky fairy. In the movie, "Contact," young Ellie asks, "Dad, do you think there's people on other planets?" Her dad replies, "I don't know, Sparks. But I guess I'd say if it is just us...seems like an awful waste of space." That is opinion, not proof.  Empirical science is designed to discover mass and energy in a physical universe and use mathematics to write laws that describe their nature, the way they move, function, and react. While science has made wonderful and extremely useful advances in technology, medicine, agriculture, etc., it has yet to provide proof of physical,  intelligent, alien life. So, why are they spending our money on this project?

Michael Clarke
Michael Clarke

Yeah... we don't taste good and are filled wth GM chemicals.. but we make good batteries

Jessie Janson
Jessie Janson

it needs to include statistics that show we are slowly moving away from religious beliefs and that many countries peoples are peaceful. we should also tell them we would vary much like their help in improving our world... they might just come for us.


That said... any serious advanced race ought to be able to create a system to spread space craft that can self replicate with the help of some resources on a planet. all for the purpose of distributing the message "you are not alone" followed by pictures of what they look like and data containing the genetic maps of all life forms and any science we have learned. followed by data on how to reprogram it to send out a version for their planet. it would be a amazing discovery for anyone who found such a thing.


maybe not in our lifetimes eh? :)

Wendal Baker
Wendal Baker

Aliens to NASA DON'T TALK TO US TILL YOU HAVE SOMETHING WORTH HEARING.