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Radio telescopes will beam tens of thousands of messages to Mars this Friday (Nov. 28) to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of Red Planet exploration.
On Nov. 28, 1964, NASA launched the Mariner 4 spacecraft, which seven months later completed a historic flyby of Mars and returned the first close-up photos of another planet ever taken from deep space. Mariner 4 captured images of a dry and desolate world, dashing the hopes of some folks who regarded the Red Planet as a potential abode for extant life.
To mark the anniversary, the space-funding company Uwingu will send nearly 90,000 names, messages and pictures hurtling toward the Red Planet at the speed of light on Friday, as part of its "Beam Me to Mars" project. [ The Boldest Mars Missions in History ]
"Beam Me to Mars" invited the public to make their own contributions to the transmission for a fee, which ranged from $4.95 for a name to $99 for a long message and an image. Submissions were open from Aug. 19 through Nov. 5.
A number of celebrities and big names in the space community contributed messages to the "Beam Me to Mars" database, including actor Seth Green, actor George Takei (Mr. Sulu from "Star Trek"), former International Space Station commander Chris Hadfield, author Homer Hickam ("Rocket Boys," "October Sky"), former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and former TV "Science Guy" Bill Nye, CEO of the nonprofit Planetary Society, Uwingu representatives said. (Disclaimer: Space.com managing editor Tariq Malik also provided a 1,000-character message.)
The messages won't be read or recorded by anyone on Mars, of course, but they'll be archived here on Earth. You can learn more about "Beam Me to Mars" and Uwingu at www.uwingu.com.