The group is also seeking funding via other means. For example, Lomberg is auctioning off his collection of Voyager Golden-Record archival material, which includes (among other things) his original sketch for the cover diagram, numerous other drawings, and letters about the project from sci-fi legend Robert Heinlein and other notable people.
Heritage Auctions will manage the sale, which will take place Sept. 14. The collection is expected to fetch about $10,000, Heritage representatives told Space.com.
As such fundraising efforts suggest, NASA is not sponsoring or bankrolling the One Earth Message. However, agency officials and New Horizons team members have unofficially signaled support for the project, Lomberg said.
New Horizons, which flew past Pluto in July 2015, is now zooming toward a Jan. 1, 2019, rendezvous with a small object called 2014 MU69. It may take a year or so for the probe to beam all of its data from this second flyby home to Earth, Lomberg said; only then will New Horizons be able to spare the computer memory necessary to accommodate the One Earth Message.
"That gives us a good two years to first put the message together, which I estimate will take at least a year, and then another year to put it all together in software, test it and make sure it's suitable for upload," Lomberg said.
The upload to New Horizons would not happen without official NASA approval. This approval might be easier to obtain if the team approaches the agency with a finished product rather than a nebulous concept, Lomberg said.
"Forty years ago, when I worked with Carl on the Golden Record, he didn't go to NASA and try to get them to approve some vague idea of the message's music and sounds," Lomberg said. "He made it, and then he showed it to them and said what we did. They reacted to it. And if there was something they didn't like — and there was one picture they didn't like — they took it out."
Lomberg's vision for the One Earth Message doesn't end with New Horizons. Eventually, he would like every probe that leaves Earth to carry the message, or something like it.
"I think our spacecraft are our finest technical masterpieces," he said. "They're essentially works of art, and every work of art should be signed."
"Signing" probes in this fashion is worth the effort, even if they drift alone through space for eternity, Lomberg added.
"We will never know if there is an E.T. audience, but for the human audience that participates, it can be a profoundly moving experience to seriously contemplate communicating with the cosmos," he said in a statement.
You can learn more about the One Earth Message and its Kickstarter campaign here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/31060842/one-earth-message-a-digital-voyager-golden-record/description
This article was originally published on Space.com.
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