Vote on a Message to Send to Space About What Earthlings Think of the World

We’re not sure if there’s anyone out there to receive them, but we earthlings have been sending messages into space for 40 years now. We’ve sent radio broadcasts, plaques engraved with pictures, and even a gold-plated record album. So far, we haven’t gotten any return messages, but METI (Messaging to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) enthusiasts are still coming up with new ways to tackle the two crucial questions raised by this kind of endeavor: How should we send the message? And what should it say?

The first question is technical, concerning the durability of materials, the means of transmission, and the distances to travel. The second is more complicated and far more interesting. A message like this is also a declaration: “This is what we find important. This is who we are.”

The Earth Tapestry project aims to create a message that represents a shared, global answer to these questions through an online vote. Pairs of landmarks like Red Square, Machu Picchu, the Lascaux Caves, and others around the world (180 total) are presented along with the questions on eight different parameters: Which is more awe-inspiring? Information-rich? Famous? Noble? Ingenious? Delightful? Durable? Irreplaceable?

The plan is to create a laser engraved disc of a map of the earth along with a legend giving coordinates of these places and what we think about them. It will be sent to the moon on an Astrobotic Technology lander next year.

The director of Earth Tapestry, William Alba of Carnegie Mellon University, says the moon, being “the border between the terrestrial and celestial, between us and the rest of the universe” is a good place to put this information capsule. Not only might extra-terrestrial beings discover it, but humans from the future might as well.

There is also an art installation planned. Alba says they “will continue to take votes over the next year and a half. We plan to fill a space with images of the locations so people can get a sense of what’s important to them and people around the world.” Earth Tapestry images will be displayed for durations that accord with their rankings in the voting.

There are many other ways to give a sense of what humans find important, of course, but for Alba, landmarks of the world is a good arena for a trial run, to make “a kind of playground or sandbox to think about what do we think is important about ourselves as human beings and how do we decide that together. Place draws people’s attention to the globe as a whole. They’ll think about where they are and where other people are.”

You can cast your vote at earthtapestry.org.

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ESA/ATG
The European Space Agency Needs Help Naming Its New Mars Rover
ESA/ATG
ESA/ATG

The European Space Agency is hosting a competition to find a snazzy new name for its ExoMars rover, Sky News reports. The rover will be deployed to Mars in 2020, so the winner would be playing a small role in the progress of space exploration.

At the contest's launch, British astronaut Tim Peake described Mars as a place where humans and robots will someday work together to search for evidence of life in our solar system. To this end, the ExoMars rover, which will land on Mars in 2021, will drill up to two meters into the planet’s soil and collect samples, the ESA notes. "The ExoMars rover is a vital part of this journey of exploration, and we're asking you to become part of this exciting mission and name the rover that will scout the Martian surface,” Peake said.

However, the agency is well aware of past public naming contests that have gone horribly wrong (we’re looking at you, Boaty McBoatface), so it’s rigged the rules to prevent such a spectacle. Instead of a public poll, suggestions will be submitted privately to the agency, which has created a panel of judges to choose the winning name.

The winner of the contest will also receive a trip to Stevenage, England, where they’ll get to see the Airbus facility where the rover is being pieced together. The contest is only open to citizens of the two dozen European countries that are partners in the ESA.

To enter, submit your name suggestion online before October 10, 2018, along with a brief explanation (under 150 words) of why your name should be chosen. Click the following PDF link to see the full terms and conditions [PDF].

[h/t Sky News]

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NASA, Getty Images
Watch Apollo 11 Launch
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
NASA, Getty Images

Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, on its way to the moon. In the video below, Mark Gray shows slow-motion footage of the launch (a Saturn V rocket) and explains in glorious detail what's going on from a technical perspective—the launch is very complex, and lots of stuff has to happen just right in order to get a safe launch. The video is mesmerizing, the narration is informative. Prepare to geek out about rockets! (Did you know the hold-down arms actually catch on fire after the rocket lifts off?)

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 from Spacecraft Films on Vimeo.

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