Text Messages Boldly Go From Australia Into Space

31 August 2009 | Deutsche Press-Agentur


Sydney (DPA) - Texters from 195 countries sent messages to the nearest Earth-like planet outside the solar system in an Australian publicity stunt its originator said Monday was the computer age equivalent of putting messages in bottles and casting them in the ocean.


"We had messages from Afghanistan to Alaska, from Morocco to Macau," said Wilson da Silva, the science magazine editor who dreamed up the wildly successful Hello From Earth project.


With the help of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, 25,880 messages were switched into binary code and transmitted to Gliese 581d.


Three times the size of Earth, Gliese 581d is 20 million light years away, but the nearest place that could potentially support life as we know it.


Following last week's transmission from the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex, the long wait is on for replies.


Da Silva, editor of COSMOS magazine, is hopeful that some texters will live long enough to receive a return communication. He reckons there could be 50 civilizations out there in the galaxy that might message back.


But it would be a very intelligent life form that could understand messages in different languages that were either clear or cryptic.


Among da Silva's favourites was. "Hi there: Sorry about The Outer Limits; hope you enjoyed I Love Lucy. Have you got all our missing socks?"