Nasa's New Horizons will send digital messages to aliens
Nasa probe will carry a message to alien lifeforms out of the solar system once its mission to explore Pluto is complete.
The New Horizons spacecraft, which is currently hurtling through space between Jupiter and Pluto, will arrive at the former planet in about a year's time to capture the first close-up images of its icy surface.
After that, it'll explore as-yet-undecided objects in the chilly Kuiper Belt -- a band of small icy asteroids and planetoids in the far reaches of the solar system. Hubble has been tasked to help the mission team track down a suitable object for study.
But once that is complete, Nasa will perform one final data transfer to the craft -- a digital message from humanity that it will carry into the dark unknown, past our Sun's sphere of influence. The plan is similar to the "Golden Record" attached to Voyager 1 and 2, which contained an analogue sound recording and several engraved images.
The design director of Voyager's Golden Record is Jon Lomberg, who led the call for a similar artefact to be included with New Horizons. However, the craft was launched in 2006, making a physical record impossible. Instead, the data will be gathered from around the world and sent digitally to the probe.
That gathering process needs money, however, so Lomberg will be crowdfunding around $500,000 (£300,000) through Kickstarter to fund expenses for the next three years. An official announcement about the project is due on 25 August, 2014.
"In a way, the history of long-term space message artefacts recapitulates the history of communications technology," Lomberg told Space. "This new message will reflect the hopes and dreams of the second decade in the 21st century. It will inspire young people's interest in science and ignite the imagination of all ages. We hope it will be an example of global creativity and cooperation, something that the entire planet can share as a cooperative venture."