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Beam Them Up: 25,000 Texts to Aliens

The Canberra Times | 29 August 2009

Students from the Karalundi Aboriginal Education Communitywatch as the HELLO FROM EARTH messages are sent from NASA's Tidbinbilla facility outside Canberra

MORE THAN 25,000 text messages from Earth zipped past Mars yesterday afternoon on the way to potential alien life forms.

Travelling at the speed of light, it will take 20 years for the messages to reach their target destination Gliese 581d, the nearest Earth-like planet outside our solar system.

The interstellar communication project, dubbed Hello From Earth, was part of National Science Week, and invited Australians to log on to a website and write a personal message to the stars.

It has attracted attention from around the world, from Afghanistan to Antarctica.

More than 1,000 newspapers and 9,000 blogs had reported on the project.

Hello from Earth spokesman and the editor of the Australian science magazine, COSMOS, Wilson da Silva, said more than 1,000 newspapers and 9,000 blogs had reported on the project.

He said the exciting thing about the project was inspiring people to think about where humans came from and whether intelligent life existed outside Earth.

The Hello From Earth website that collected the messages during National Science Week

''The chances are there's at least 50 civilisations right now in the galaxy who we could communicate with and who might be able to receive our signal,'' he said.

''The only example we have of life is Earth. Scientists suspect that evolution is a natural order, it's like the laws of physics that will apply anywhere in the universe. So evolution will have run completely differently on another world. There's no expectation that they'll even have two legs, two arms and a head.''

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, converted the messages into binary code before transmission from the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla.

The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla sent the messages with a transmission strength of more than 300 gigawatts.

The complex sent the messages using a 70m dish antennae, which has a transmission strength of more than 300 gigawatts equivalent to every person on the planet sending 50 text messages on 50 mobile phones at once. Complex director Miriam Baltuck counted down for the message send-off with students from the Karalundi Aboriginal Education Community, who were visiting the complex from Western Australia.

Dr Baltuck said the entire deep space network and its giant dish antennas existed because of curiosity-driven research on understanding the universe and our place in it. ''It's really a wonderful opportunity to take this magnificent apparatus and intrigue the curiosity of so many thousands of people to have them make a contribution,'' she said.

The last message to be accepted was from Brisbane schoolgirl Alexandra Lynch: ''Stage fright! What do you say in an intergalactic message? Hello? Peace? What's the weather like? Know that we're here, we're waiting. Hear from you soon.''


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