You may never set foot on Mars, but your words and pictures could land there later this year.
The space-funding company Uwingu launched its "Beam Me to Mars" project Tuesday (Aug. 19), inviting people to contribute, for a fee, to a "digital shout-out" that will send messages by radio transmission from Earth to the Red Planet on Nov. 28 — the 50th anniversary of Mars exploration. (The messages won't be read or recorded by anyone on Mars, of course, but they'll be archived here on Earth, and participants will receive a commemorative certificate.)
The first successful Mars mission, NASA's Mariner 4, launched on Nov. 28, 1964.
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"We want it to inspire people," said UwinguCEO Alan Stern, a planetary scientist and former NASA science chief. "There has never been an opportunity before for people of Earth to shout out across the solar system their hopes and wishes for space exploration, for the future of mankind — for any of that."
Other goals for Beam Me to Mars include raising lots of money to fund space science, exploration and education (Uwingu's stated chief purpose) and letting policymakers know how important space exploration is to their constituents, Stern added.
"We want to make an impression on leaders," he told Space.com. "The more messages, the bigger impression it makes. If this thing goes viral, and it becomes the thing to do, then it'll make a huge impression."
All messages submitted for Beam Me to Mars will also be hand-delivered to Congress, NASA and the United Nations, Stern said. (Disclaimer: Space.com managing editor Tariq Malik has provided a 1,000-character message to the Beam Me to Mars database.)
You can beam your name — or someone else's — to the Red Planet for $4.95. For $9.95, you can contribute a name and a 100-character message, while $19.95 gets you a 1,000-character note instead of the shorter one. If you want to splurge, $99 gets you a name, a long message and an image of your choosing. The messages will be searchable for free on Uwingu's website, company representatives said.