Efforts are under way to crowd-source a message for putative future aliens, to be uploaded to the New Horizons probe after it completes its historic mission to Pluto and (possibly) another object in the Kuiper belt.
New Horizons is the fifth object we’ve sent on a one-way journey out of the solar system, and the only one not to have a message aboard.
Its predecessors, Pioneers 10 and 11, had a plaque; and Voyagers 1 and 2 were equipped with analogue record – with stylus.
The chance of any of this actually being found by aliens is, of course, vanishingly small. None of the probes are headed to any specific star – their departure from the Sun’s neighbourhood is a by-product of the fact that they were accelerated beyond solar escape speed as a way of keeping transit times down to their targets in the outer solar system.
Still, it’s an intriguing thought to suppose that, millions of years hence, Thog the Blob from Ursa Major might happen across one of these probes and – if the messages haven’t been eroded over thousands of millennia by interstellar radiation and dust, or the soft-copy on New Horizons lost to quantum tunnelling, maybe they’ll get a bit of an insight into a long-lost species on a far distant world.
Long lost? Sure. And that brings me to the message that might be uploaded to New Horizons. You know:
“Dear Alien. Greetings from Planet Earth. We call ourselves human, but you probably knew that already because, by the time you’ve seen this, we’ll have conquered the visible universe and made it a better place for all. Whatever problem we face – global warming, warfare, whatever – we’ll get together and work co-operatively to fix it, in a spirit of happiness and generosity, and get on with making the universe a better place for everybody who shares it. Love from Humanity.”
Or, more realistically:
“Dear Alien. Greetings from Planet Earth. By the time you read this, we’ll be so long gone even our cities will be mere smears of residue in the dirt. We have this delusion that we’re special, but we never stop being stupid, stupid apes. We fight each other all the time over territories – intellectual, ideological or physical – for reasons that often don’t make sense outside a narrow imperative of personal validation or other equally selfish motive. We get hung up on status, defined often by wasteful practises that produce nothing or lead to us fighting each other. We exploit and pollute every environment we go near, until it’s destroyed – and often then go and fight each other.
“We’re good at it. Our history is littered with broken environments, lost kingdoms, wars, disputes, and a litany of inhumanity to ourselves. No matter how much we call on ourselves to care, to be thoughtful, to be tolerant, we always seem to lose track of the point. And our problem now is that we’ve run out of planet to exploit, pollute and fight over, and none of us can agree on ways to fix the problem. We haven’t got long. We hope your species, whatever it is, has a better way. Love from Humanity.”
Which one do you think is more likely? And what’s your thought on the way we should advertise ourselves to aliens?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015