In February I sent a message into space via a large radio dish. This is a commercial endeavor called Sent Forever.com, but it has a certain appeal to me. I won't buy a star name or property rights on the Moon because that's not something you can actually do, no matter who takes your money.
But, my message, which I wrote and submitted, has been traveling through space now for about 6 months, and as promised, Sent Forever just sent me an update as to how far my message has gone.
"Hi Mike, just to let you know that the message we transmitted from you for Irene on 20 Feb 09 is about to pass another key milestone. Tomorrow, it will have travelled 5,000,000,000,000 kilometres (approximately 3,107,000,000,000 miles) from Earth on its journey into eternity. To see your message and precisely how far it has travelled, enter your tracking number xxxxxxxxxxx in the Track your Message box on our website's home page."
First, is there one 'l' or two in traveled? Hmm...I hope I did a spell check on my message.
Next, I wonder how long it will be before they absolutely have to convert this distance into some other unit. This is a perfect demonstration of why astronomers use light years and parsecs. Can you imagine how many zeros will be in the next message?!
Another thing I'm beginning to wonder is how long they will be able to continue this. I'd rather enjoy a message from them 10 years from now telling me my message has just passed Vega or some bright star within 10 light years of us.
But most of all, I wonder how many planets around stars with life on them we will know about by then, and if we'll be any closer to telling whether there is anyone out there who may actually get my message some day.
"Hello, is anybody out there?"