Money & Business

Aiming for the Moon, Literally: One Foundation's Plan for a Lunar Library

By / May 17, 2018 (Nova Spivack/Twitter)

The Arch Mission Foundation has plans to put the entirety of Wikipedia, among other things, into an elaborate microfiche archive, then send it to the moon. And it’s not even the first time they’ve done something like this.

Wikipedia it seems, is everywhere on Earth—on smartphones and dumb phones, in countries with great internet access and in places with less.  But on the moon? It’ll be there soon, too, thanks to a nonprofit group with a mission to share knowledge across time and space.

The Arch Mission Foundation, which produces long-term archive tools for the digital era, has announced a plan to put the contents of Wikipedia and the Rosetta Project, a digital library of human languages created by the Long Now Foundation, into a “Lunar Library.” To get them there, Arch Mission will team with Astrobotic, which has a lunar lander going to the moon in 2020.

Millions of pages of content, both text and images, will be laser-etched onto thin sheets of nickel at a resolution of 300,000 dots per square inch—like traditional microfiche, but far smaller. A reader will be able to zoom in on the text using a 1000x microscope. Nickel was chosen because it is impervious to conditions that archivists generally don’t have to worry about, like dramatically changing temperatures and radiation exposure.

“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,” Arch Mission chairman Nova Spivack said in a news release.

The foundation’s first such project, the Solar Library, was launched earlier this year on a SpaceX flight—the same mission carrying Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster.

The Lunar Library mission will experiment with some additional storage technologies, including 5D optical data storage (also called “superman memory”) and DNA storage that keeps data in molecular form. The organization says it will describe these in more detail later this year.

“We can definitely preserve our unique cultural heritage and biological record in a way that will survive for millions to billions of years, and that has not been possible before,” Spivack said. “We see the Lunar Library as the ultimate in cold storage for human civilization.”

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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