Planned 'Lunar Library' Will Send Millions of Wikipedia Pages to the Moon on Tiny Microfiche

Tuesday, 15 May 2018 - 7:09PM
Space
Technology
Moon
Tuesday, 15 May 2018 - 7:09PM
Planned 'Lunar Library' Will Send Millions of Wikipedia Pages to the Moon on Tiny Microfiche
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NASA
Just in case something apocalyptic ever happened to Earth, wouldn't it be great if we had a backup collection of knowledge off-world?

But that cynical reason isn't the only motivation for the nonprofit Arch Mission Foundation, who wants to set up a "Lunar Library" of information the Moon's surface; they also just want to inspire more interest in space by doing cool stuff like this. And what better source of info for this Lunar Library than Wikipedia? Which, for all its flaws, is a pretty comprehensive encyclopedia. 

So their plan is this: team up with the spaceflight company Astrobotic - who has a Moon mission planned in 2020 with their Peregrine Lunar Lander - and equip their rover with a cylindrical container of "nickel microfiche" containing all the contents of Wikipedia etched into tiny sheets of nickel for easy storage. It's much like the thin sheets of microfiche you can find at a library, except better suited for space travel.



This isn't the first time Arch Mission has attempted this sort of thing. Earlier this year, they pulled a similar maneuver by working with SpaceX during their historic Falcon Heavy rocket launch. During the launch, the entirety of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy were stored on a small device and placed inside the Tesla Roadster that is currently floating through our solar system

But their Lunar Library is more ambitious, being a "set of tens of millions of pages of text and images stored as analog microfiche on thin sheets of nickel" that can easily be read with a powerful enough microscope, according to a press release. In the same press release, the Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said the following:

Opening quote
"We're thrilled the Arch Mission Foundation has selected Astrobotic. It's humbling to think our mission to the Moon will deliver something that could be read millions of years from now. Arch's Lunar Library will be a monument not only to human knowledge and culture, but also the first commercial mission to the Moon."
Closing quote


Their hope is that eventually, people in the far future will come across the information and learn more about how our society is now, a sort of cosmic time capsule. But until then, the microfiche is planned to remain on the Lunar Lander indefinitely, although more information could be sent further into the future to update the Lunar Library.

And if Earth did face some terrible catastrophe, then it's good to know that when we finally re-learn how to reach the Moon, we'll have something waiting for us.


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