ON MONDAY, FEB. 4TH, COINCIDENTALLY THE SAME DAY Submerge’s inaugural issue hits the streets, our friends at NASA will be broadcasting The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” into deep space. The event will take place at 7 PM Eastern time (4 PM Pacific) and will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Explorer 1 satellite, the first space mission as well as the somewhat less notable 45th anniversary of the Deep Space Network antennae system which, according to a Feb. 1st article by Patrick J. Lyons for the New York Times, “NASA uses to explore space at one remove by listening to the electromagnetic radiation coming our way from Out There; the system also comes in handy for picking up data sent by space probes we have dispatched to the planets and beyond over the years.”
Yeah, sorry, launching shit into space is way cooler.
According to Lyons’ article, the signal, for those of you who may be traveling into deep space at the time—or will be there however long it takes for the signal to reach its destination—will be the strongest 431 lightyears away from Earth in the general direction of Polaris. This is only the second time mankind has sent a broadcast into space, but regardless of how you feel about The Beatles (I hear they’re pretty popular), this will undoubtedly be a more entertaining beacon than our last attempt to contact extra-terrestrial life. The first message was written by Francis Drake, a professor at Cornell University, in 1974 in commemoration of the remodeling of the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico. The transmission (a colorized version is pictured here, stolen from Wikipedia, the original was colorless) only lasted about three minutes and consisted of a mess of bits that are, among other things, supposed to represent numbers from 1 to 10, the formulas for the bases and sugars in the nucleotides of DNA, a human figure and a crude map of our solar system with Earth slightly displaced to show the planet from which the signal came from.
“Across the Universe” is a pop song, a good one at that, and I’ll take music over some crude blips and bloops any day of the week, no matter how informative they are. Both Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono agreed to let the song be used, saying in press releases, “Amazing! Well done, NASA! Send my love to the aliens. All the best, Paul,” and “I see that this is the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe,” respectively.
For those of you who plan to be Earth-bound for the foreseeable future, there’s no reason for you not to get caught up in the fun. At 4 PM today, NASA is encouraging lowly terrestrials worldwide to crank up the song on their reel-to-reels, boom boxes and iPods. It’s nice to think that a song can bring the world, or worlds as the case may be together. It sure seems like something the late John Lennon would approve of. The opening verse of the song goes:
Words are flying out like
Endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow waves of joy
Are drifting thorough my open mind
Possessing and caressing me
I’d like to believe that aliens would hear this and think humans are a swell bunch of folks, capable of profound thoughts and emotions”¦or maybe just a bunch of drug-crazed hippies. I guess either way is fine.