On November 28th, 1964, NASA's Mariner 4 launched off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a historic mission - to carry out the first-ever flyby of Mars. Though it took a little over six months, on July 15th, 1965, the spacecraft successfully entered the Red Planet's orbit and sent back 22 images - providing scientists with the first ever close look at the surface of another planet from deep space. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this successful mission, crowd-sourced space-themed company Uwingu, ("sky" in Swahili), organized a global shout-out event.
Entitled "Beam Me to Mars", it invited people from all over the globe to submit friendly messages that would be digitally beamed to the Red Planet, on November 28th, 2014. Space fans had four message levels to choose from. They ranged from a bare bones $4.95 package to beam just their name, to a luxury $99.95 deal that included a long message and even an image.
Alan Stern, the CEO of Uwingu, who also happens to be a planetary scientist, said that the project was meant to inspire people by giving them the opportunity to shout out their hopes and wishes for space exploration and the future of mankind, across the solar system. It was also an innovative way to raise funds to help the company achieve its objectives to fund space science, exploration and education.
Turns out, that many people were excited to be heard by Mars - By November 5th, the deadline for message submission, Uwingu had collected almost 90,000 messages from people all over the globe, including Hollywood celebrities, 25 space organizations and corporations and even science icons like the former International Space Station commander Chris Hadfield, whose lengthy message read:
"Greetings neighbor planet! Thank you for being so patient with our 50 years of probing; you've taught us a lot,". "Earthlings are explorers by nature, and will come visit Mars in person as soon as we can properly figure out how. Until then, all 7 billion of us wave hello from here on our blue planet, shining brightly in your sky."
Stern's own message which read - "To the future of humankind as a two-planet species! That future can't arrive soon enough," - aptly summed up the wishful thinking of many space enthusiasts that hope to inhabit the Red Planet some day.
On Friday, November, 28th, the 90,000 messages were beamed to Mars at a rate of on million bits per second from antennas in Hawaii, Alaska and Australia, by Uwingu's partner, Universal Space Network. Traveling at the speed of light they reached their destination in a speedy quick 15 minutes. The only unfortunate part? There was no-one at the Red Planet to receive them . . . or was there?
This is not first time the Uwingu has capitalized on the world's fascination with Mars. In 2012, it invited people to help create a map of the Red Planet by naming its landmarks for a small fee. To date, over 12,000 Mars craters have been named allowing the company to set aside an astounding $100,000 USD, for space research grants.
Resources: discovery.com, phys.org. economictimes.indiatimes.com