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CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian website is giving texting an intergalactic touch and allowing users to send short mobile phone-type messages into space.
From Wednesday and until August 24, people hankering for an out-of-this-world experience can visit www.HelloFromEarth.net to post messages no longer than 160 characters that will be transmitted to Gliese 581d, the nearest Earth-like planet outside the solar system likely to support life.
Expected delivery time, however, is some 20 years, the website said. And there's no guarantee of a response.
"It's like a 'message in a bottle' cast out into the stars. What's interesting is not just whether there's anyone listening, but what the public will say to intelligent life on another planet," said project spokesperson Wilson da Silva.
"Hello From Earth is our way of showing that science can make the impossible possible. We have been to the moon and now, we can speak to the stars," he said in a statement.
The messages, to be transmitted from the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, with the close cooperation of U.S. space agency NASA, is part of Australia's National Science Week which celebrates the country's scientific achievements and creates awareness of the importance of science.
Science Minister Kim Carr entered the first message to launch the project.
"Hello from Australia on the planet we call Earth. These messages express our people's dreams for the future. We want to share those dreams with you," his message said.
"As a child I, like many Australians, stared up at the stars and wondered what was out there. Now science has allowed me to send a personal message that may answer that question," Carr said.
Writing by Miral Fahmy, editing by James Grubel