Monday, December 27, 1999
Ray of Hope
Roswell Laser Beam To Carry Messages From Old Missile Silo Into Cosmos
By Mike Taugher
Journal Staff Writer
ROSWELL -- At the stroke of midnight Dec. 31, a bright green laser beam will blast out of an abandoned nuclear missile silo near Roswell and carry encoded messages into the heavens.
It's part of a hopefully intergalactic, end-of-the-millennium event in the same southeastern New Mexico area where some believe an alien spacecraft crashed to Earth in 1947.
Promoters said they are sending a beacon of hope into the cosmos for the dawn of the next millennium.
The Starlite is a for-profit business venture that allows computer users to send greetings to friends. For a fee, greetings or messages will be encoded in a laser beam that will be shot into the sky from outside Roswell at midnight Dec. 31.
Here are some of the messages that have been submitted by Starlite customers for transfer into space.
"As we approach a new millennium, all of our thoughts are out there in the stars. Are we alone?? The new millennium will answer that. We welcome all visitors to our planet Earth." "We look forward to meeting you, as long as your (sic) not eating humans. Our society is very basic so please come and help us. I look forward to your reply." "Merry Christmas from Area 51." "Well, here's another way for space aliens to locate Earth and decide specifically whom to look up and obliterate once they get here ... There goes the neighborhood!" "Please forgive the fools involved with the Roswell, New Mexico, incidence (sic) and understand we're not all bad here." "Use this beam as a locator and reply in any way you can. We are waiting. You are not alone." "At the turn of the century, I'm sending a message that will last forever. It is a wish for peace and understanding throughout the world -- and a hope that the next thousand years will show humankind at our best."
"We kind of consider it a cosmic message in a bottle," said Matthew Cook, general manager of The Starlite, a project of an Internet company called Light Messenger that will blast the laser beam from the silo.
Cook acknowledged the project is a little "gimmicky," but for promoters the event is also meant to be a symbol of transition from an era of war into an era of peace.
"We actually have a vehicle that can communicate into the stars," said Charles Walker, head of the Roswell Chamber of Commerce, which is helping to promote the event.
"This thing is going up to end a millennium of Cold War and destruction and ... now we're going to start the new millennium with peaceful communication," Walker said.
He also sees the laser project as a good way to draw tourists and increase Roswell's mystique.
Inside the old missile silo itself, which was abandoned in the mid-1960s, graffiti is everywhere. The silo has been scavenged and vandalized so severely that it looks as if the nuclear war it was built to withstand actually took place. There is soot from fires and evidence of random shotgun blasts. Guardrails have been stripped from darkened stairways.
Lyrics from Jim Morrison's apocalyptic song "The End" are spray-painted on a wall deep in the 18-story, underground structure. ("This is the end ... My only friend, the end.")
Air Force officers once posted here were prepared to launch an Atlas intercontinental nuclear missile.
"It's pretty weird to think people were locked in here with their fingers on the trigger," said Cook. "We're turning a cylinder of death into a message of hope."
Two 75-ton doors are propped open now, and a laser lens hangs suspended in preparation for the New Year's party.
The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the laser blast and will bar airplanes from flying through the area, although that restriction is unlikely to cause any disruptions.
"The time they are planning to do that, there is little, if any, flying activity," said Dave Wingert, an FAA manager in Albuquerque. He said the laser was essentially an "entertainment" grade apparatus.
Walker said he hopes a few thousand people show up for the party, which he said will be family-oriented and with no liquor sales. Recorded classic rock will boom from the silo's catacombs up to revelers on the surface.
"It will be the biggest party in the state," Walker predicted. "Instead of Times Square, where they watch the ball fall down, in Roswell we'll see the light go up."
Internet messages will be encrypted into the laser beam, carrying notes from the hopeful to the absurd and quirky.
One says: "This is a message to any civilization able to receive it. It comes with a wish for peace and friendship. Use this beam as a locator and reply in any way you can. We are waiting. You are not alone."
It costs $9.95 to send a message up.
Cook said "thousands" of messages will be encoded in the laser beam, but many of those were written and sent to the company's Web site before it began charging.
"It seems like a way to make money," said Dave Thomas, president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, a group that doubts that a UFO actually crashed outside Roswell in 1947. But Thomas acknowledged that "it may be possible to see (the laser) from space."
Promoters of the Starlite say the light beam and messages could, in theory, travel 10 light-years into space -- far enough to potentially reach another solar system.
But that is unlikely to happen because the laser's aim is random. The light will streak toward whatever happens to be straight up from Roswell at the turn of the millennium. However, the light packets containing scattered bits of messages could continue into infinity.
"I don't think we're going to hear back immediately," said Walker. But he added: "I think we're going to get somebody's interest up there."
The Starlite's Web site is www.thestarlite.com. For tickets to the party, call the Roswell Chamber of Commerce at 505-623-5695.