MOSCOW, August 13 (RIA Novosti) - An Australian science magazine is offering inhabitants of the third planet from the Sun the chance to send text messages to aliens, national media reported on Thursday.
Thanks to a special project launched by Cosmos, Earthlings will be soon able to send a free text message to the nearest earth-like planet, Gliese 581d.
The project, supported by the Australian government, is part of National Science Week.
Anyone who wishes to do so can send a message using the Hello From Earth website until August 23.
"Everyone is very excited because it's the first planet - of the 358 so far discovered outside of our solar system - that has the potential for life," Hello From Earth spokesman Wilson De Silva was reported as saying by ABC News.
Messages in English, up to 160 characters long, will be converted into a radio signal and transmitted from the Canberra Deep Space Complex at Tidbinbilla, about half an hour's drive from Australia's capital. Messages will be checked to see that they do not contain swearwords.
The inhabitants of Gliese 581d - if they exist - will only receive the messages in December 2029, De Silva said.
"Travelling at the speed of light...it's still gonna take 20 years," he explained.
Australia's Science Minister Kim Carr was quoted by media as saying that the project would help people "discover the limitless possibilities of science," giving people an "opportunity to contact other intelligent life forms".
"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", he said.
"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," he wrote in his own message quoted by media reports.
The project has excited the global community, with 26,000 hits received by the Hello From Earth website in its first five minutes, crashing the system for a short time.
Gliese 581d, eight times the size of Earth and 20 light years away, was located in April 2007. Scientists later discovered that the planet is within the habitable zone where liquid water, and therefore, life, could exist.