What you’re about to read could get me in a heap of trouble with the U.S. Government if they were to find out what I did. So I must ask you, my dear Constant Reader, to keep what you read here under your hat. That said, this is my admission of guilt and explanation.
A friend of mine works for NASA at the Cape Canaveral launch facility in Florida. He was one of the lead scientists on the Galileo space project, which was launched from the Cape on October 18, 1989 aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. Its main mission: To cruise around the planet Jupiter and its many moons, gathering data and sending that data via the Deep Space Network (DSN) back to us here on earth.
The launch and subsequent roundabout 5 year journey to Jupiter was going along just hunky-dory until April 11, 1991, when the spacecraft executed stored computer commands designed to unfurl its large high-gain antenna.
Some of you may recall that the antenna didn’t exactly deploy like it was supposed to. In fact, the antenna was rendered useless. So instead of transmitting data back to earth at an expected rate of 134,400 bits per second, using the high gain antenna, JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) will now have to rely on Galileo’s low gain antenna, slowing the rate of transmission to an astonishing snail’s pace of 8 to 16 bits per second. What this means is that when Galileo takes an 8×10 glossy of Ganymede’s surface and sends that data back to earth, instead of taking only one minute to collect that data it will now take several weeks. Ouch!
Don’t tell anyone, at least not anyone associated with NASA, JPL, FBI, CIA, NSC, or the Pentagon, but this was all my fault. Yes, because of me, Galileo’s high gain antenna did not unfurl completely, rendering it useless.
This wasn’t an attempt at sabotage on my part and I feel extremely badly about what happened. But hey, I meant well! I wouldn’t be telling this story except for the fact that because of what I did, I was able to make contact with an alien being. And that’s more than any other space agency on earth can claim. (At least publicly!) Confused yet? Let me start from the beginning.
In September of 1989, I thought it would be cool to send a Macintosh computer into space. Not as a tool on one of the shuttles or even as an intricate part of an unmanned spacecraft. No, I wanted to launch a Macintosh on its own, to go where no man has gone before. To seek out… etc., etc.
So I did. I actually launched a modified, souped-up Macintosh SE with the help of my friend at the Cape. I didn’t have a rocket laying around that was powerful enough to reach earth orbit, let alone go as far as I needed the Macintosh to go, so I did the next best thing, I hitched a ride on the Galileo spacecraft.
With the help of my friend, we attached the Mac to the outside of Galileo in a pod that was designed to hold a camera. The purpose of the camera was to record the unfurling of the high gain antenna and later record the jettisoning of the Jupiter probe, sending it on its short lived existence into the Jovian atmosphere at 105,000 miles per hour. This camera pod just happened to be the right size for my mini Mac-spaceship. My friend removed the camera package in the wee hours of the morning, when no one else was around, shortly before Galileo was placed inside the cargo bay of the shuttle Atlantis… and replaced it with my modified Mac SE.
Atlantis blasted off from the Cape, entered earth orbit, opened its cargo bay and released Galileo, sending it on its long roundabout journey towards Jupiter.
On March 10th, 1991, as programmed, three explosive bolts attaching the SE to Galileo fired, releasing my Macintosh spacecraft and sending it on its way to explore the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. What I hadn’t planned on was the effect the small explosion of the bolts would have on the rotation of the mothership Galileo. Oops!
What happened next: When the bolts fired, the plexiglass cover on the pod was blown into space, just like what happens to the canopy of a jet fighter when the pilot ejects. Although small, the blast was still enough in zero gravity to put the mothership into an unfavorable spin. Before the plexiglass cover had a chance to clear Galileo, the mothership had spun two degrees on its axis, which was just enough to put the high gain antenna directly in the path of the pod cover. What ensued next was an 87,000 mile-per-hour collision. The escaping pod cover grazed three of the umbrella-like ribs on the high gain antenna, bending the ribs just enough to put it out of commission. For this, I apologize to the fine people at NASA and JPL and wish them all the best for the future success of the Galileo mission.
My SE spacecraft, which I dubbed the U.S.S. Macaroid, fired a one second retro-rocket burst to clear itself from Galileo and shortly thereafter the main engines fired, propelling the U.S.S. Macaroid on its way towards the asteroid belt.
We programmed the SE to penetrate the asteroid belt and seek out asteroid 2.892970 of the Koronis family of asteroids. The SE then had to match speed and velocity with 2.892970 and land on its surface. This took place on June 22, 1991, my wife’s birthday. Why did I choose asteroid 2.892970? No reason other than a gut feeling.
Once on the surface, the small nuclear reactor attached to the SE took over and powered up the Mac, periodically (every 30 days) sending me a self analysis of itself, via the DSN, letting me know that all its systems were working.
For the next six years these “systems ok” messages were all I received from the U.S.S. Macaroid. I was devastated and disgruntled that my “gut feeling” might have only been a bad case of indigestion. I had all but given up on receiving anything of importance from the SE, that is, until I opened the most recent file sent by the SE early last month.
Instead of the same old “All Systems OK” message I had been receiving for the past one hundred and fifty eight months, I was presented with the following message on my screen:
Who are you?/What do you want?/How did you find me?
“Holy Schmoly! What have we got here, ” I wondered. Could this be what I had been hoping for all this time, or was this a glitch in the aging SE, or even worse, a hoax!
It had been so long since I’d sent any kind of command to the SE that I had to do a search for the Read Me file I wrote to myself years ago explaining how to break into the Deep Space Network (DSN) transmitter in Goldstone, California. Finding it, I could only hope it would still work. It did. And I sent the following message to the screen of the U.S.S. Macaroid:
RE: Who are you?/What do you want?/How did you find me?
Who wants to know?/Who wants to know?/Who wants to know?
Hey, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, ya know. I wasn’t about to sheepishly answer these questions especially since they sounded so demanding. I wanted to have the upper hand in this conversation. After all, the whole planet may depend on how I conduct myself with these aliens.
For the next twelve hours I was on pins and needles, checking my e-mail every few minutes. Finally I received the following:
“I am Coldar, lone explorer and observer of your kind./Sent here thirty eight of your earth years ago to collect and study the vast amount of disturbing electronic emissions escaping your planet./I have learned all languages spoken by your kind and continue to analyze all electronic communications that leak from your atmosphere./
Should too many of your kind learn of my existence, my mission would be altered./ I would then become duty bound to put my spacecraft on a collision course with your planet, effectively eliminating life as your kind has come to know it./Not an act I wish to carry out./ However it has been determined by powers far greater than I that your kind are too unstable to participate or interact with the galactic community of WHA at this point in your kinds evolution./
But I am lonely and am using this primitive communicating device that has docked with my interstellar spacecraft in the hope of opening a dialog with one of your kind and still maintain my directive of non-interference./Are you the sender of this device?/What are your intentions?”/
Shazam! After reading that I thought it wise to answer post-haste! So I sent the following:
“Hey Coldar, chill out will ya! Your secret’s safe with me! I have no intentions of blabbing this all around the planet. Hell, no one would believe me anyway! No need to be talking about crashing your ride into my planet. Jeeez! Get a grip!”
I went on and told him/her/it who I was and how my “primitive communicating device” happened to end up on his/her/its back porch. A back porch, I might add, that strongly resembles a 3 km x 1 km sized asteroid. (Alien stealth I guess) I ended with:
“I repeat Coldar, I am not affiliated with any governmental agency, be it local or planetary. I’m just a regular kinda earth guy fooling around with his Macintosh computer. And please remember Coldar ole’ buddy, it was you who contacted me, I just provided the means. By the way Coldar, if you think that Macintosh SE is a primitive device, just be thankful I didn’t send you a PC!” Your friend, Pete.
I thought I handled that pretty well, don’t you? At any rate it opened up a more friendly and continuous dialog between me and Coldar that still goes on. We exchange e-mails on a daily basis when I’m home and I have come to learn quite a lot about Coldar’s home planet and culture.
Coldar comes from a double-star solar system located near the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Coldar’s race calls the Milky Way galaxy WHA, but likes our name better.
His/Her/Its planet is called PIRMIAD, one of seventeen planets orbiting the double stars of GER and FEM. PIRMIAD’s orbit around the two stars is precarious at best, battling the gravitational pulls of the two warring stars fighting one another over possession of Coldar’s home.
I even learned to speak Coldar’s language which is quite different than any languages we have here on earth. It is not a visual or audio based language like what we’re familiar with. It’s more of a mental projection from ones brain to another. There is no alphabet nor characters used, however, it can be written down on paper, electronic or otherwise, and be read by one who understands the language. Let me give you an example.
I had repeatedly inquired as to the gender of Coldar but never got a response to my question. I began thinking it might be taboo to discuss such things where Coldar hails from, that is, until I asked the question in Coldar’s language. For those of you who don’t speak the language I will type my question and Coldar’s answer in brackets and underline it. As I’ve said, the language is not very visual.
I received an immediate response to this question.
Yea, I was pretty shocked myself when I read that! Weird, huh? For those of you who don’t speak PIRMIADIAN, the translation is as follows:
["Are you a male or female PIRMIADling?" ]
[A PIRMIADian is of both sexes./ We change from one to the other throughout our lives as we deem necessary./ We need no other PIRMIADian to propagate our race as you earthlings do./ We impregnate ourselves during self-mating, which can only take place at the time we change from the male sex to the female./I am in the female state now and have been since I arrived in your solar system./]
Well, ain’t that just the most disgusting thing you ever heard? I’ll tell you what, after I read that, the subject of sex was never raised again by me! Taboo, if you know what I mean!
Coldar tells me that she is scheduled to rotate out and go back to PIRMIAD in two earth years. She has also made it clear that she will destroy the U.S.S. Macaroid before she leaves and warns me not to try to make contact with her replacement, saying that her replacement may take any attempt on my part to make contact as an act of aggression and could very likely send his/her ship on a collision with earth.
We don’t want that, now do we?
So I’ll just continue my long distance dialog with Coldar for the next two years and after that, cherish the memories of having communicated with a real live alien.
I tell you My Mac readers this story because I consider all of you my friends and I know you won’t go blabbing this all around the Pentagon or the C.I.A. water coolers. Besides, now you’re all aware of what the consequences would be if the wrong people caught wind of our little visitor, sitting up there in the asteroid belt on an asteroid look-alike spaceship monitoring MTV, C-SPAN, The Simpsons, Beavis and Butthead and All in the Family reruns. Not to mention the OJ Trial!
You can’t really blame them for wanting to keep our species a secret from the rest of the galaxy, at least until we straighten up our act! Coldar tells me that we earthlings are an embarrassment to the other, far more advanced galactic communities out there that have evolved beyond our own petty bickering and hatred of one another; where a slight misunderstanding, disagreement or just plane greed often results in murder, mayhem, or on a grander scale, even war.
Lucky for us, Coldar also tells me that we Homo Sapiens show remarkable promise that leads the rest of the galactic community to believe that given time, planet Earth can rise above its many shortcomings and become a viable and welcome addition to the Milky Way Galaxy. According to Coldar, this transformation will not take place in your or my lifetime, nor the lifetimes of our grand children. But, barring our own nuclear self-destruction or succumbing to a world wide spread of an Ebola-like virus, planet Earth may one day become a highly sought after vacation spot for other species throughout the galaxy and maybe even the universe.
I wouldn’t be able to tell you any of this ‘inside information’ had I not taken a chance with that old Macintosh SE and established a communications link with my new friend Mr./Ms.? Coldar.
If any of you have an old Mac laying around that you think has outlived its usefulness, think again. If nothing else you can always launch it (literally) and see what happens!
As I stated early on in this article, I am trusting all of you to keep this under your hat. Should the authorities come knocking down my door and confiscate my Performa, I would first, deny any knowledge whatsoever of this article or of any contact by me with a Macintosh-adept alien. Secondly, I would be forced to end my quasi-career as a My Mac staff writer because I wouldn’t have a machine to write on and I’m not that dedicated that I would attempt to send in my column in longhand. Ending my writing career may appeal to some of you, but I hope not the majority! So please remember that old WW II saying, “Loose lips get Pete in trouble,” or something like that!
Should I receive enough interest, (by way of e-mail queries) as to what Coldar is up to, I may provide you with a brief synopses of our ongoing conversations every month. If not, I’ll just keep our little chats to myself and you can just forget about the little bug-eyed alien sitting up there all by her lonesome, keeping watch on us.
If you were waiting for me to say “APRIL FOOLS!” at the end of this story, I’m sorry but that is not the case. As most of you know, I only speak the truth and would never, ever knowingly give you false information.
Pete Miner (firstname.lastname@example.org)