Today, starting at 3 p.m. EST/2000 GMT, radio telescopes will beam as many as 90,000 names, messages and photos towards Mars. The event, organized by Uwingu (the for-profit company that allows the public to nominate names for exo-planets), celebrates the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Mariner 4 missions.
Exactly five decades ago on November 28th, 1964, NASA sent its first-ever robotic probe to Mars. The craft took roughly seven months to navigate the terrain, capturing images and photographs in the process. To everyone’s surprise, the Red Planet was largely desolate and dry – dashing the hopes of many that it could potentially be used as a abode for extant life.
However, regardless of this initial disappoint, the mission is still considered a landmark breakthrough in space history. The successful completion of this project, for example, eventually set the precedent for future space crafts to visit, explore and even traverse the Red Planet – beginning with Mariner 9, and the Vikings missions, to the latest project, which utilizes an orbiter, MAVEN, to explore and study the Martian atmosphere and terrain.
As such, today’s event, appropriately named, “Beam Me to Mars, will send extraterrestrial hellos to the planet as commemoration of the Mariner missions. From Aug.19th to Nov. 5th, space enthusiasts were invited to submit their greetings for a variable fee of US$5 – $99. Included in this group are various celebrities – notable people such as former International Space Station (ISS) commander, Chris Hadfield, actor and comedian, Seth Green, and former TV star, Bill Nye the “Science Guy”, among others.
Although there no one will be present to actually receive the messages, Uwingu wrote on the project website that people on Earth will hear them loud and clear. The messages will be transmitted by the Universal Space Network at a rate of one million bits per second, but will take at least 15 minutes for them to reach Mars.
The entire transmission will take place twice, and the funds raised for the event will be used for future space projects. Copies of the messages will also be sent to Congress, NASA headquarters in Washington and the United Nations in New York.