by Peter James Spielman, assoicated press writer, 9/15/92 UNITED NATIONS-After more than 3
by Peter James Spielman, assoicated press writer, 9/15/92
UNITED NATIONS--After more than 30 years of listening to radio waves from
outer space for greetings from an alien civilization, scientists are
planning to turn to the United Nations for guidance on how to answer.
Dozens of times, scientists have picked up radio waves matching the
expected signature of a message from space. But these have not been
confirmed as genuine contacts because they were fleeting and unverifiable.
With new NASA equipment joining the search next month, radio astronomers
believe they will ultimately be able to confirm that a future transmission
is a sign from a distant planet.
Radio astronomers and engineers involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial
Intelligence, commonly called SETI, this month began consulting with their
colleagues in all scientific disciplines for suggestions on what the reply
to aliens should be.
After sifting and winnowing their own ideas, the scientists plan to seek
a decision from the U.N. General Assembly's Committee on the Peaceful Uses
of Outer Space.
"The basic thinking all along is that this decision ought to be put into
the hands of the United Nations," said John Billingham, head of the SETI
project at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.
In a "white paper" now being circulated to space scientists worldwide,
one key principle is that Earth should reply with one voice, on behalf
of all humanity, than than individual states sending a response, according
to scientists familiar with the document.
"We have always considered this not just a U.S. question, but an
international question." Billingham said. "Everybody, in some way or
another, should be involved in it." [
Officials at the U.S. State Department, speaking on condition of
anonymity, say they are leaving this initiative to the scientists.
The space scientists plan to refine their ideas at international
meetings in April and October 1993.
The 53-nation Committee of the Peaceful Uses of Outer Sapce has in the
past drafted five intermational treaties on the peaceful uses of outer
space, and three internationally accepted declarations of legal
The scientists would have to find a sponsor nationa to bring their ideas
before the U.N. committee. Then, Billingham said, the committee could
accept wide-ranging testimony from scientists, historians, philosophers
and political delegates to shape Earth's reply to a message from
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank