Posts tagged with "Carl Sagan"

NASA’S Lucy spacecraft will carry a time capsule intended to be found by future astro-archaeologists

July 15, 2021

NASA engineers installed a time capsule on the Lucy spacecraft late last week— intended for future astro-archeologists to retrieve and interpret. The time capsule is a plaque that includes messages from Nobel Laureates and musicians, among others, as well as a depiction of the solar system’s configuration on October 16, 2021—the date on which the spacecraft is expected to launch, Gizmodo reports.

Like the Pioneer and Voyager probes, Lucy will carry a message to whomever eventually might intercept the craft. But while the previous probes have messages meant for aliens, as they were shot toward interstellar space, Lucy will stay within the solar system. Its time capsule will presumably be for future humans to retrieve, hence the inclusion of words from Nobel Laureates, Poet Laureates, and musiciansaccording to a NASA release detailing the plaque’s inclusion.

The plaque was installed on Lucy on July 9 in Colorado, where the craft is undergoing final preparations before its slated autumn launch.

The plaque includes quotes from civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., authors and poets including Orhan Pamuk, Louise Glück, Amanda Gorman, Joy Harjo, and Rita Dove, scientists Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan, and musicians—including all four Beatles and Queen guitarist and astronomer Brian May. The messages discuss hope, love, the heavens, cultural memory, and eternity. A complete list can be found on Lucy’s website.

Lucy’s mission focuses on the Trojan asteroids, a group of space rocks that orbits the Sun beyond the ring of the asteroid belt—taking turns leading Jupiter or chasing the gas giant in its own solar orbit. (Trojan asteroids are those that share an orbit with a planet and often are byproducts of that planet’s formation, but the term most commonly applies to those involved with Jupiter.) Jupiter has a phalanx of Trojans, but Lucy (named for the fossil hominin, itself named for the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”) is targeting just seven of them for flybys over the course of 12 years.

According to Gizmodo, the asteroids are intriguing because they are thought to have formed in the early solar system; just as the Lucy fossil helped paleoanthropologists understand human evolution, the hope is that the Lucy spacecraft will inform NASA about solar system evolution. And since Lucy’s in the sky—beyond it, if we’re being extremely literal—you can imagine the “diamonds” here are the asteroids, a veritable wealth of information.

Lucy is a product of the Discovery Program, the NASA initiative that is producing the DAVINCI+ and VERITAS missions to Venus. The Lucy mission will conclude in 2033, just around the same time when those spacecraft will be arriving at Venus, but Lucy will bounce between the Trojans and Earth for at least hundreds of thousands of years. (NASA has no plans to snatch the craft back out from space.)

Perhaps the most apt passage on the plaque, then, is a quote from science journalist Dava Sobel: “We, the inquisitive people of Earth, sent this robot spacecraft to explore the pristine small bodies orbiting near the largest planet in our solar system. We sought to trace our own origins as far back as evidence allowed. Even as we looked to the ancient past, we thought ahead to the day you might recover this relic of our science.”

To the future humans who may nab Lucy: Enjoy your plaque. You probably won’t be using any language currently spoken on Earth, but hopefully you can grok our intent.

Research contact: @Gizmodo

Reach for the sky: Help scientists craft a message to aliens

October 31, 2018

Who’s out there? Humans aren’t just searching for extraterrestrials using radiotelescopes and exoplanet research. We also are actively attempting to help aliens find us. And, according to an October 30 report by Futurism, we all can be part of that effort.

About 44 years ago, Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory—a  facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by the University of Central Florida—sent a message to a star cluster roughly 21,000 light years away.

The so-called Arecibo Message—transmitted via radio signal—marked humanity’s first deliberate attempt to draw the attention of extraterrestrials, and now the observatory is asking the world to help it write an updated message to aliens.

American astronomer Frank Drake wrote the first Arecibo Message with the help of colleague Carl Sagan and others, and there’s no word yet on how the observatory thinks we might be able to improve upon a message crafted by some of the most brilliant minds in science.

The original message comprised 1,679 binary digits that conveyed a wealth of information about life on Earth—including the elements that comprise DNA, the location of our planet within the solar system, and the basic dimensions of the average human. When converted into graphics, the message looks something like the world’s weirdest game of Tetris, Futurism said.

Now, the observatory has sent out a press release to kick off a weeklong celebration —from October 28 through November 3—of its 55th year in operation; and, at some point during the week, it will reveal more details on what it’s calling “the #NewAreciboMessage global challenge.”

If you have ever wanted to communicate with aliens, this is your chance. But there is one major caveat, according to the Futurism story: Should we even be reaching out at all?  There’s no telling who our message might reach, and the reaction to our epistle  could be less-than-friendly. With that in mind, optimists only should apply.

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