We are watching you!
We are watching you!

We now know of thousands of planets orbiting other stars. But we know of only planet that hosts life – the Earth. Most scientists think that life elsewhere in the Universe is likely to exist, but so far there is no evidence that extra-terrestrials exist or that they have visited us. However, we can search for signs of life on distant planets and we are even using radio telescopes to look for messages sent to us by extra-terrestrial civilisations. If there is life out there, it probably doesn’t look anything like us. However, if a planet has the capacity to create and sustain life – whether as bacteria or as little green men – it is fairly certain that, like ourselves and other life forms on our own planet, alien life forms have evolved to survive and prosper in that environment. Just for fun, take the tests below to see if you can imagine what kinds of beings might live on the four planetary environments suggested. By clicking and dragging each one, take items from the pool of possible body parts, and attach them to the blank alien’s head, bearing in mind the conditions on each planet, and – build your own alien.
Build your own Alien click here for planet 1…
Build your own Alien click here for planet 2…
Build your own Alien click here for planet 3…
Build your own Alien click here for planet 4…

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Offer a personalized star for Christmas, or buy your late loved one a celestial sepulchre, a Texas company specializing in extra-terrestrial services for space lovers has a gift line that few others can match. Houston-based Space Services Inc. certainly markets its gifts out of this world. Since 1997 the company has offered the opportunity to have one’s ashes, post-cremation, delivered up into orbit for posterity. More recently, the company has offered the chance for people to single out a star have it named for whoever they like. “We are attempting to give the public around the world the opportunity to be involved in very real space missions,” said Space Services chief executive Charles Chafer. The challenge of arranging space flights for its special payload notwithstanding, the company’s space burials have taken off. It is preparing for its sixth launch in March 2006. The first launch in 1997 carried the remains of 24 men, including Gene Roddenberry the creator of the legendary television series Star Trek; 1960s counterculture icon Timothy Leary, and Princeton University physicist Gerard ONeill. The upcoming launch will also evoke Star Trek memories, carrying remains from the late actor James Doohan, who played the engineer on the spaceship Enterprise.

Name a Star
Shafer, who started his career developing rockets for commercial launches, explained that the company sends into space vials of people’s ashes as a secondary payload accompanying commercial launches of satellites. The ashes are then set into orbit at the same level of the satellite. The cost is not out of orbit, however. The company charges by the weight, 995 dollars for a capsule containing one gram of a person’s ashes, and up to 5,300 for seven grams, inserted into a container which resembles a lipstick tube. “We actually launch what we call a symbolic portion of cremated remains,” Chafer told AFP. “It reflects a growing trend, here in the US and around the world, of doing things with someone’s ashes that will be meaningful for that person.” More recently Space Services has come up with a new idea, to allow people to name stars, at least unofficially. The idea is that people will name stars for their loved ones as gifts. For a start, the company has listed stars in a catalogue. Customers tell the company a constellation or astrological sign that interests them, and the company officers a list of possibilities. From there the process is automated — an emailed star certificate, a photograph of the star, and other helpful information. However, the company plans to take it much further. Next year a customer will be able to look at their star by tapping into a page on the company’s website that is connected to a robot-controlled telescope in the Canary Islands. Moreover, said Chafer, the star’s name and a personal message can be launched into space on a disc carried by a commercial rocket. “People love star gifts because of the fascination with space and the romance stars represent,” said Susan Schonfeld, communications director for Space Services. “”Everybody has his own star.” “It’s a symbolic gesture. Nobody actually, officially named a star,” Chafer said. Chafer said he started his company to allow people to take part in space exploration. With his products, he said, “Not only can you do something meaningful … but you can be part of a real space mission.”

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