When I was 13 years old, I would spend summers on my Grandfather's ranch in Northern Arizona. Looking back on those days, I fondly remember how he and I would spend our days. Though not having any real "Formal" education, my Grandfather was an engineering wizard, he could build anything he set his mind to. I remember the summer of my 13th birthday, him and I went down to Phoenix Arizona. He had a Doctor's appointment and took me along, that was the day my world changed forever. After his appointment, we went to a store in Mesa Arizona. He bought me a Telescope, rather large one. I was so exited, I couldn't wait to get home to use it.
Unknown to me, my Grandfather was an amateur Astronomer, he knew each and every constellation in the night sky by heart. He would show me things in the night sky that amazed me, things that to this day still fill me with wonder. Through that telescope, I got to see Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. I got to see everything in the night sky and know them, all thanks to my Grandfather and the stories he would tell.
But the one thing I loved to see in the night sky, was the Andromeda Galaxy. I would sit for hours just watching it, looking at the way it moved. Even though it was 2 million light years away, I wondered what life was like in it. I wondered if there was a planet just like Earth in the Andromeda Galaxy, what it might look like or did it have life on it at all?
I started to wonder, if there was such a planet, was there a 13 year old boy looking up from where he was and watching me? Did he wonder the same thing I did, did he wonder if I was also looking back at him? What did he look like, did he speak the same language? What did he eat, did he have the same type of food as I did? What did they call our Galaxy, what did they call their own Galaxy?
Living in the country, you don't have the city lights obscuring the view of the night sky. Almost every summer night in Northern Arizona, there were clear skies. The view of the night sky where my Grandfather's ranch was located, was to say the least breathtaking. Even today, thinking back on it, I still remember what the views were like. A full panorama of the sky met your gaze, you saw everything, from one horizon to the other.
There was a small hill out back of the house, I would sit there with my telescope and look up at the night sky. My Grandfather and I built a small Observatory on it, just something to provide some sort of shelter for the telescope.
One of my heroes in Astronomy was Percival Lowell, the builder of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff Arizona. I think I read almost every book I could find about him, I idolized him. Sitting in my little Observatory on top of the small hill on my Grandfather's ranch, I thought I might make some breakthrough in Astronomy like he did. I felt like I was carrying on where he left off, just watching the Andromeda Galaxy every night.
One of the things I would dream about, is contacting that other young boy. I wanted to talk to him, to tell him what life was like on Earth and maybe he could tell me what it was like on his planet. Even though I didn't know him, in my mind, I thought of him as my new found friend; so I set out to try to find a way to contact him in some manner. I thought about it for a while and came up with the perfect way to do it, (At least in my mind) RADIO!!! I went to my Grandfather again and told him my plan, he kind of chuckled at what I said, but told me would help me.
My Grandfather served in WWII, his job was as a radioman. We went to one of his storage sheds, (he had three) we found several radios that might do the trick. Of course we were going to have to cannibalize all of these radios, just to build one that would serve the purpose. We worked at it for two long weeks, taking parts from one radio and then another and assembling them into the finished product. We then had to have a power source, to make it work. To that end, Grandpa strung a wire from the main breaker box to my little observatory. This served to give me power to run the radio, plus I could also use it for lights at night.
With my radio ready, I tried to transmit a message any message... NOTHING... I searched and looked for what seems to be hours, as to why it didn't transmit. It couldn't transmit, because it was only a receiver. Going back to the drawing board, we made it into a transmitter as well. The Antenna we had couldn't transmit, so we had to either build or buy one that could do both; we opted to buying one this time.
With the new components in place, I sat down and pointed my antenna toward the Andromeda Galaxy and made my first broadcast.
"Hello, Planet Earth in the Milky Way Galaxy calling, to anyone in the Andromeda Galaxy, can you hear me? My name is Charles Goodson, I am 13 years old. I live in Northern Arizona, a State in the Country called the United States of America. It is July 23rd 1977, so it is summer here where I live. What is your name and where do you live, what do you call your Planet?"
Every night for a full month, I kept sending that message, (with a change of dates of course). I never received a reply, I didn't understand the reason at the time. But looking back on it and with what I know now, I can understand why.
I am 55 years old now, I have lived and seen life as anyone my age would in those long 43 years. But I still think about that young boy who sat almost every summer in that observatory, looking up at the night sky and wondered what was out there. I think about the message I sent out 43 years ago, I wonder how far it has gone. I know it will take 2 million years to reach it's destination, but I imagine it will get there.
By the time it reaches the Andromeda Galaxy, I will be gone. Maybe by that time, we will have found a way to travel to the Andromeda Galaxy. Who knows, maybe my descendants and the descendants of that other young boy will finally meet. Hopefully they will meet as friends, maybe they will hear the message I sent out in 1977...