Thursday, June 20, 2013

ET, text home; startup Lone Signal wants to beam your text messages into space

A New York startup aims to give you the chance to send a text message to an extraterrestrial. The best thing is, the first text is free. The site first went live on Monday night.

Lone Signal is turning social networking into a galaxy-wide affair. Sign up at their website, and they'll give you a chance to send a free SMS to outer space. Use it well, though. You only get one free text message; after that you'll pay $0.99 for four or about a quarter apiece.

You can get some serious savings if you buy texts, in bulk though. 4,000 messages (or beams, as the company calls them) are only $99.99, vs. the $990 at the four-at-a-time price.

To be clear, to get your free message, humans -- and extraterrestrials; see the sign-up image, above -- have to create a profile. You don't have to give much information, though, other than your email address, a username, and a password. The rest of the profile information can be left blank.

Lone Signal has secured a 30-year-lease on the famed radio dish at the Jamesburg Earth Station in Carmel Valley, Calif., which was first built to support the Apollo 11 moon mission. Messages aren't sent willy-nilly into space, but instead are beamed directly to the area around the red dwarf star Gliese 526, which is about 17.6 light years away.

Why Gliese 526? The company explained in a blog post that they chose Gliese 526 because it has potentially habitable conditions, meaning there are planets that could hold water, and thus aliens with smartphones. Of course, they'd have to be able to decode an SMS message, which as far as we know could be technology exclusive to Earth.

There's also the possibility that there might be no one listening at Gliese 526.

Lone Signal's chief science officer, Jacob Haqq-Misra, said in a video blog:
Past attempts [to communicate with extraterrestrials] have been pulses in time that existed for a matter of just a few seconds or so. That's like having your radio transmitter tuned into the right frequency at exactly the right time to hear two seconds of your favorite song. If we really want to communicate something to an extraterrestrial listener, you have to transmit repeatedly, giving them time to tune in to the right station.
Lone Signal has more ambitious goals than just sending SMS messages into space. The company hopes that the current project will enerate enough interest for it to eventually raise enough money for a full-scale continuous transmission project, which would cost an estimated $100 million and require satellite dishes in each hemisphere.

Jamie King, Lone Signal's CEO said:
The only way to do that [create a continuous transmission system] would be to interest the private sector in the same way that Space X has brought the private sector into space exploration.
What sorts of texts are being sent? Many are snarky, a few are serous. Examples:
Scurvy: Trust No One. Come armed. Just Nuke Us.

Tengby: OK, guys. Think once more before answering. People here are somewhat crazy.

Mirisan82: There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is His Messenger. "He is Allah ,One, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, And none is like Him

Miluska: "The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space." Carl Sagan, Contact

Clyro: Greetings from Earth! We hope you are well. We hope you will communicate back to us if you have the ability to. Peace and love from Earth.

Mbornestav: Greetings fellow inhabitants of the kosmos. We are ready to receive you. /Marcus, Earth

Ncarmichael27: I can only hope this is heard, or read, oneday by you. Earth is an amazing place. We have much to learn from each other. Contact us...somehow.
We'd have to ask ... where's the app?  Android and iOS please, and perhaps Windows Phone.

What would you say to an extraterrestrial? Comment below.

No comments: