May 16, 2018 - Science

The Moon could get its first library in 2020

Images of text etched into nickel.

Images of text etched into nickel. Photo: Arch Foundation

After shooting a copy of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy into space with Elon Musk’s roadster, a Texas-based foundation plans to fire a library to the Moon.

Big picture: The Arch Mission Foundation wants to create off-site "data backups for Earth" to preserve our culture so future humans, should they find it, can learn about our mistakes, says co-founder Nova Spivack. The non-profit plans to send microscopic images of Wikipedia and the Rosetta Project — a digital library of human languages — to the Moon in order to establish a "lunar library" there.

How they plan to do it: Information will be etched onto thin, durable nickel films — akin to microfiche in libraries— using a technology developed by Stamper Technology.

"We putting big data in space."
— Nova Spivack


  • Spivack says they can put 25 million pages on a stack of the films that is roughly the size and shape of a DVD.
  • It wouldn't require a computer to read it.
  • The plan is to carry the library on a lunar lander being developed by startup Astrobotic — which CEO John Thornton described last week as offering "DHL delivery service" to the moon.
  • Target launch date: 2020.
  • It would be located permanently at the lander site on the northeast part of the Moon.
  • Eventually, they hope to add to it and seed information throughout the solar system. (The foundation sent a copy of Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" trilogy stored on quartz crystals in Elon Musk's spacefaring Roadster.)

Deep questions: Spivack says scientists, artists, historians, anthropologists and others debated what information — the good, the bad and the potentially nefarious — to include in the library. They want it to be representative of different perspectives —"Wikipedia does this in a way," he says.

He'd also like to send DNA from humans and other species eventually, if the technology to store it in space can be developed.

 Our goal is to include everything we've achieved and know.
— Nova Spivack

Parting thought: "Many great civilizations have been lost. It is hubris to think it couldn't happen to us," Spivack says.

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