by Graham Pierrepoint
NASA have been connecting with the public in a big way in recent months – they’ve looked for ideas on how to safely dispose of astronaut poop, for one – and now, it looks like they are returning to the public forum to find the most interesting messages to beam billions of miles into space. Of course – this type of public engagement hasn’t gone well for every public body in the past – just ask Mountain Dew or Boaty McBoatface – but NASA seems keen to engage with stargazing internet users to find the best possible message to send to the stars.
The scheme comes as Voyager 1, NASA’s furthest-reaching man-made space probe, is set to celebrate its 40th birthday on September 5th – as it was 1977 when the probe was first launched into the outer recesses of space in an effort to expand our exploration of the wide void beyond. It’s currently thought to be coasting around a staggering 13 billion miles away from Earth, meaning that it really is a record-breaker, and a record-holder – and NASA wants to celebrate the big anniversary coming up by beaming out a selected message to the probe, billions of miles into the black.
By using the hashtag #MessageToVoyager, social media users are encouraged to produce ‘uplifting’ messages that could be sent out to the man-made satellite in time for its launchday celebration on September 5th. The message can be up to 60 characters long, and you are able to submit your ideas across a number of different networks – via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even Google+ or Tumblr – providing that you stick to the desired brief of an ‘uplifting’ message. NASA will then pluck a winning phrase from those entered and will beam them out across space in early September – a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for anyone interested in space exploration and star study!
Therefore, it’s thought this contest will be considerably well-governed – meaning that joke responses will be actively filtered out, and that NASA themselves will have final say on which message wins the contest. Leaving such matters to public vote of course led a polar exploration vessel to being christened ‘Boaty McBoatface’ in a competition last year – though the craft eventually decided to lead with a name inspired by legendary broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.
Fancy beaming a message out to the stars? Hop onto social media with the hashtag #MessageToVoyager and let NASA be uplifted by your words!