A privately owned company is hoping to make contact with extraterrestrials, and they are turning to the people of Earth for help.
Lone Signal, a New York-based startup business, has recently leased the satellite equipment of the Jamesburg Earth Station in California’s Carmel valley in hopes of communicating with alien intelligence. More specifically, they will attempt to make contact with Gliese 526, a solar system located 17.6 light-years from Earth.
The founders of Lone Signal include businessmen, tech developers, and artists. CEO Jamie King is the cofounder of Rockstar Games, known best for its Grand Theft Auto line of video games. Joining him are Pierre Fabre and the company’s sole investor, fashion photographer Greg Kadel.
The company is starting off small, prompting individuals to accept the offer of sending one free 144-character message to Gliese 526 when the website launches on June 18. Four more “credits,” or extra text messages, can be purchased for 99 cents afterward. Senders can dedicate messages to loved ones or track them as they travel through space.
Lone Signal will simultaneously be broadcasting a binary code message concerning the principals of physics with the assumption that extraterrestrials follow the same physical laws as we do on Earth. The binary message was developed for the group by National Radio Astronomy Observatory fellow Michael W. Busch.
Lone Signal’s executives are hoping that word of mouth and public interest will lead to eventual profit because their ultimate goal will cost nearly $100 million: a continuous transmission program with satellite dishes housed in each hemisphere. King compared what he wishes to achieve with investments from the private sector to that of Space X and its work with space exploration. For now the company is running on money from its founders as upgrades are made to Jamesburg and the website is maintained.
The idea of contacting alien life is not a new one. In fact, there are two different terms for it—METI, or Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and Active SETI, or Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Despite Lone Signal’s contributions to METI/SETI, not everyone is thrilled with the idea of sending random communications into the unknown reaches of space. George Dvorsky with i09 called “shouting out into the cosmos” an issue, one for which “we simply do not know the risks.” He went on to express concern over private companies handling such a complex issue simply to
“make a bit of money.”
Regardless, chief scientific officer with Lone Signal Jacob Haqq-Misra assured the public that the scientific community is well aware of what the company is doing. Even if they did not, it would matter little: use of such mundane items as cell phones and street lights send signals into space every day. If anyone wanted to look for Earth, he said, it would not be difficult to find it.