NASA will not launch naked pictures of humans to space to attract aliens

Reports based on hypothetical idea to send binary-coded digitised images of human body to space

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Claim: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will send images of naked humans to space to elicit a response from aliens.

Fact: NASA is not working on a broadcast to launch images of naked humans into space. The misleading reports appear to have stemmed from a research study recently published in arXiv — an online database of non-peer-reviewed publications — about a hypothetical means to send a message to potential alien lifeforms somewhere in the Milky Way galaxy. The study relates to launching into space “binary-coded messages”, including digitised images of the human body.

On 10 May 2022, Instagram account @propergaanda posted a visual accompanied by a news story titled, “NASA will send n*des to the space for a reply back from aliens.”

Numerous media outlets — including several based in Pakistan and India — also reported the story, often with headlines that were either misleading or completely untrue.

Fact or fiction?

Soch Fact Check looked for the source of the news and found that a research study had been cited in most of the relevant articles. The study — published in arXiv, an online database of non-peer-reviewed publications — is about “an updated, binary-coded message [that was] developed for transmission to extraterrestrial intelligences in the Milky Way galaxy”.

“The proposed message includes basic mathematical and physical concepts to establish a universal means of communication followed by information on the biochemical composition of life on Earth, the Solar System’s time-stamped position in the Milky Way relative to known globular clusters, as well as digitized depictions of the Solar System, and Earth’s surface. The message concludes with digitized images of the human form, along with an invitation for any receiving intelligences to respond,” the study’s abstract states.

The published study has not yet undergone the peer-review process. Moreover, the study relates to launching into space “binary-coded messages”, including digitised images of the human body, not ‘nudes’, which are defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “a picture or other piece of art showing a person who is not wearing any clothes”.

In addition, the study was not conducted or funded by NASA, although scientists associated with NASA did contribute to the work.

A NASA spokesperson told Snopes that two of the study authors, Jonathan Jiang and Kristen Fehy, are employed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Jiang and Fehy “contributed to the study because some of the work intersects with their areas of expertise, but this was not work they were directed to do by NASA, and NASA is not working on a broadcast of this kind,” the spokesperson said.

According to Snopes, Jiang — one of the study’s authors and an astrophysicist with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) — noted that the study focuses on “a hypothetical means to send a message to potential alien lifeforms somewhere in the Milky Way galaxy”.

The team of researchers, the publication wrote, explained that “their thought experiment does not include sending a physical photograph into space” but that “it is a string of binary digits, sort of like a celestial Morse code, broadcast via radio waves to space”.

Virality

Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis for the period since 1-11 May 2022 using the following search terms:

  • “nasa nudes”
  • “nasa nudes space aliens”

The first search term turned up 549 Facebook posts and 108 Instagram posts, which garnered 124,424 and 1,819,417 interactions, respectively, while the second search term revealed 222 Facebook posts and 62 Instagram posts, which gained 70,292 and 1,651,205 interactions, respectively.

A third search term, “ناسا خلائی مخلوق,” turned up over a dozen posts that received more than 500 interactions.

Conclusion: NASA is not working on a broadcast to launch images of naked humans into space. The misleading reports appear to have stemmed from a research study recently published in arXiv — an online database of non-peer-reviewed publications — about a hypothetical means to send a message to potential alien lifeforms somewhere in the Milky Way galaxy. Although some NASA scientists contributed to the study, a NASA spokesperson confirmed they are not working on any broadcast of this nature.

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