Astronomical artist Jon Lomberg — the same guy who helped develop the Voyager Interstellar record back in 1977 — is launching a new initiative to persuade NASA to upload a new message to the New Horizons spacecraft once its mission to Pluto is complete. He's calling it Voyager Record 2.0.
As it stands, New Horizons doesn't have any Voyager-like message on board. The spacecraft is currently 3.1 billion miles (5 billion km) from Earth on a mission to explore Pluto and its moons. But according to Lomberg, it's not too late to upload a message into its databanks via a radio transmission— a digital message that could, in theory, be intercepted and decoded by an extraterrestrial intelligence. Because, like Voyager, New Horizons will eventually make its way into interstellar space.
This Sunday (September 22 at 9 am EST) Lomberg formally launches the New Horizons Message Initiative (NHMI). Its goal is to persuade NASA to transmit an updated "portrait of Planet Earth" to the spacecraft's computer memory after its active mission of Pluto is complete.
"There is no room on the computer memory for our message until all the data from the Pluto encounter have been downloaded," said Lomberg.
He has the support of an international advisory board of more than 60 scientists, engineers, journalists, artists and ordinary people. Signatories include Jill Tarter, best known for her work with Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and former Young Australian of the Year, astrophysicist Bryan Gaensler.
"I feel cheated that the great stories and exploration of space happened before my time," said Gaensler. "If I'd been a prominent astronomer in the '70s I would love to have participated in what Voyager and Pioneer carry with them outwards. This is my generation's chance … to take our message outwards too."
Interestingly, Lomberg is hoping to crowd-source the message. After holding a worldwide search for materials, finalists will be selected through online voting. Of course, sending messages to extraterrestrial intelligences (METI) doesn't come without its potential risks.
New Horizons is scheduled to make its Pluto flyby in July 2015.