Beginning June 18th, the Cold War era Jamesburg Earth Station outside Carmel, California will start beaming 144 character text messages to outer space, in hopes of reaching extraterrestrials. And the messages will come from you.
Startup Lone Signal recently signed a 30 year lease for the space station, which will be the headquarters of the METI project (Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence). The signal will be directed at a red dwarf star, Gliese 526, which is thought to be potentially habitable. While this is not the first time humans have sent messages to outer space, this may be the first time that they send continuous messages from the public. Says Chief Scientist Jacob Haqq-Misra:
What’s different about this from previous attempts at messaging extraterrestrials is past attempts have been pulses in time, that have just existed for a matter of seconds or so, then they’ve ceased. That’s like having your radio transmitter tuned into the right frequency at exactly the right time to catch two seconds of your favorite song. So if we really want to communicate something to a potential extraterrestrial listener, you have to transmit your message repeatedly…to allow a lot of time for them to tune into the right station.
The research funding for the METI project will be crowdsourced, with the public invited to send texts to space. People who sign up to Lone Signal will be able to send one free text message into space, and then will have to pay a fee thereafter with different packages from $1 to $100 (sending JPGs costs more). As well as hoping to communicate with aliens, the project is a sociological examination of humanity and what we have to say about ourselves. CEO Jamie King (who also is a co-founder of Rockstar Games, makers of Grand Theft Auto) told Science 2.0:
[T]here is a great movement happening in the privatization of space and space exploration and I think this is the first opportunity for the public to have some say in how we want to be perceived out there. We’re all one race now, part of what has increasingly become a very small global village and I think the opportunity to bring everyone together and give them a forum, where everyone with an Internet connection can participate, is what the Lone Signal experiment is all about.