ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.
Image credit: ESA

The European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is relaying a mysterious signal…on purpose.

Today the ESA Mars-circling spacecraft will transmit an “alien” message, specially concocted by the global “A Sign in Space” art project.

The cosmic communiqué will be picked up by antennas dotted around the globe: the Green Bank Telescope (West Virginia), the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station (Italy) and the Allen Telescope Array (California).

Developed by artist Daniela de Paulis in partnership with the SETI institute, Green Bank Observatory, ESA and others, the project asks “If we received an extraterrestrial message, how would we interpret it? What would it mean for humankind?”

The public and experts from all countries and cultures are being asked to decode and interpret the message, the content of which has been kept under lock and key for months, according to an ESA statement.


Practice message

As a practice makes perfect maneuver, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) flight control team prepared their own special message, part of early tests to ensure the feasibility of the endeavor and one that allows the ground-based observatories to fine tune their systems to be ready for the public event.

That message was a picture of the TGO team beamed down on March 14, TGO’s 7th launch anniversary.

TGO team members relayed test image from Mars-circling spacecraft.
Image credit: ESA

The actual ET-mimicking message was first sent up to TGO from ESA’s mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, on May 10. It was stored onto its memory, converted into ‘telemetry’ (data) and will this evening be beamed back down to Earth.


For more information on this creative use of space, time, and all things alien, go to:

Wanted: ET Message Decoders – Rehearse and Prepare!

Image credit: UCLA SETI

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