Sun, Feb 03, 2008 - Page 7 News List

NASA to beam Beatles across the universe


The songs of the Beatles have always enjoyed a global appeal. Now one of their best-loved recordings is to be beamed into the galaxy in an attempt to introduce the Fab Four's music to alien ears.

NASA will broadcast the song, Across the Universe, through the transmitters of its deep space communications network tomorrow -- the 40th anniversary of its recording at London's Abbey Road studios.

The music will be converted into digital data and sent on a 431 light year-journey towards Polaris, the North Star, in a stunt that also commemorates the space agency's 50th anniversary.


Former Beatle Paul McCartney, who co-wrote the song with John Lennon and played an extraterrestrial concert from Earth to the crew of the international space station in 2005, said he was excited by the project.

"Well done, NASA," he said. "Send my love to the aliens."

Whether there is anything out there to hear the broadcast is another matter. But for Briton Martin Lewis, a Los Angeles-based former producer of Beatles DVDs who came up with the idea, it would be fun trying to collect the royalties.

"We don't know if there's life out there, but I'd like to think the US government wouldn't be spending taxpayers' money on this if there was no hope," he said.

Lewis said he chose the 1968 song, which the group never released as a single, because its title and lyrics represent a spirit of friendship and harmony.


"It never had the highest profile and is a bit of a forgotten classic," he said. "But it has universal appeal. It transcends ages, borders, language and other barriers."

Other Beatles favorites, such as Here Comes the Sun, Ticket to Ride and A Hard Day's Night, have been played in space as wake-up music to astronauts aboard the space station and on shuttle missions.

But this is the first time any music has been transmitted deep into the cosmos. NASA will encrypt the song and beam it into space from its Madrid transmitter tomorrow to Polaris, where it will finally arrive in the year 2439.

Tomorrow has also been declared Across the Universe Day by Beatles fans across the world, who are urged to play their own recording of the song at the same time as NASA begins its own broadcast, 7pm in the US, midnight in the UK and 1am on Tuesday in Spain.

"I see that this is the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe," said Yoko Ono, Lennon's widow, who has given her backing to the project.

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