Is Anyone Out There?

NASA will beam a classic Beatles song into deep space later today.


Feb. 4, 2008 — -- Is there life on other planets in our galaxy?

On the off chance there is, are you listening? Because today, NASA will spin a song into space for the first time — The Beatles' "Across the Universe" will go into deep space at 7 p.m. ET.

Today is the 40th anniversary of the song's first recording.

Paul McCartney is happy about being beamed into space. "Amazing! Well done, NASA!" McCartney wrote in a message to the space agency. "Send my love to the aliens. All the best, Paul."

This is also the 50th anniversary of NASA's founding and marks two other anniversaries for NASA: the launch, 50 years ago this week, of Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite, and the creation, 45 years ago, of the Deep Space Network, an international network of antennae that supports missions to explore the universe.

The Beatles transmission is being aimed at the North Star, Polaris, which is 431 light years from Earth. The song, written by John Lennon, will travel across the universe at a speed of 186,000 miles per second.

His widow, Yoko Ono, characterized the song's transmission as a significant event.

"I see that this is the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe," she said.

McCartney has played to space before. In 2005 he performed the song "Good Day Sunshine" during a concert that was transmitted to the International Space Station. Beatles songs have often been used as wake-up songs for astronauts on orbit, including "Here Comes the Sun," "Ticket to Ride" and "A Hard Day's Night."

Today has been declared "Across the Universe Day" by Beatles fans to commemorate the anniversaries. As part of the celebration, the public around the world has been invited to participate in the event by simultaneously playing the song while it's transmitted by NASA. Many of the senior NASA scientists and engineers involved in the effort are among the group's biggest fans.

"I've been a Beatles fan for 45 years — as long as the Deep Space Network has been around," said Barry Geldzahler, the network's program executive at NASA headquarters in Washington. "What a joy, especially considering that 'Across the Universe' is my personal favorite Beatles song."

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