Time capsules are designed to preserve the history and the zeitgeist of a particular era for future generations to discover, but the nonprofit Arch Mission Foundation’s “lunar library” could very well go beyond that. With vast amounts of information, including the entire contents of Wikipedia, the plan behind the library is for the data within to survive for billions of years as a reminder of human culture and achievements.
According to a report from Space.com, the lunar library was jointly announced on Tuesday by the Arch Mission Foundation and Astrobiotic, the latter of which is a private company whose Peregrine lander will be used to transport the library to the moon in 2020. Aside from every available Wikipedia page, the library will come with the Rosetta Project human language compilation courtesy of The Long Now Foundation, as well as other types of content to be announced at a later date. The nonprofit’s website explains that it creates “specially designed devices” called Archs (pronounced “Arks”), that come in different shapes and dimensions, and are developed with the intent of sending them to the surfaces of other “planets, moons, and asteroids.”
Earlier this year, Arch Mission teamed up with SpaceX, launching a “data crystal” with science fiction icon Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy aboard the latter company’s Falcon Heavy rocket in February. Arch Mission co-founder and chairman Nova Spivack said that the launch of the quartz storage crystal with Asimov’s works was part of a broader plan for preserving human culture, and it would seem that the lunar library is the next big step in that plan, TechCrunch noted.
How can an Arch containing an extensive lunar library survive on the moon’s surface, and possibly outlive our own planet, as Arch Mission’s website claims? Space.com explained that the library’s “pages” are thin sheets of nickel with laser etchings, where the contents can be read by using a 1,000-magnification optical microscope. According to representatives from both Arch Mission Foundation and Astrobiotic, the library has the potential to last billions of years because nickel’s properties remain relatively unchanged by either space radiation or lunar temperatures, which could vary from extremely hot in the daytime to freezing cold at night.
“Through massive replication around the solar system, we will be able to guarantee that the Arch Libraries will never be lost — even millions to billions of years in the future,” read a statement from Spivack.
Speaking to TechCrunch, Spivack added that there might be more content added to the lunar library in the future through the launch of additional storage devices with new or updated information. He added that his company’s Archs have the long-term benefit of serving as a “great gift” to archaeologists from future generations while inspiring people in the short term to undertake similar projects to help these generations remember what mankind has accomplished so far.
“If you want to be a spacefaring civilization, your civilization is not just your rocket … We want people to be able to look up at the moon and have an Apollo moment, a kind of, ‘Wow, human civilization is now on the moon.'”
With NASA and other organizations planning crewed missions to Mars and other parts of the solar system, Spivack added that he’s confident Arch Mission’s project will bear fruit, as he believes humanity can establish itself on the moon and on Mars “as long as we don’t do something stupid.” He also cited companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin as examples of commercial firms that might also prove instrumental in helping establish a human presence outside of Earth.