If you’ve ever worried that humanity will ever wipe itself out so completely that there’ll be no record of our civilization for aliens to discover, you can now rest (somewhat) easy.
Even if we blow everything on Earth to smithereens tomorrow, there will likely still be a library of 30,000 books, 5,000 languages, plus a complete copy of Wikipedia, somewhere on the moon.
The only problem: We don’t know exactly where.
The library is a project of the Arch Foundation, the same company that gave Elon Musk a test copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy to put aboard his spacebound Tesla Roadster.
The Arch Lunar Library contains 100GB, or 30 million pages of text and pictures, literally embedded in 25 nickel disks in the tiniest type you can possibly imagine. You don’t need anything more specialized than a microscope to read it, and the etchings should survive for billions of years.
This library was supposed to be delivered to the surface of the moon — specifically, the Sea of Serenity — by Israel’s Beresheet Mission last week. The bad news: After a glitch that turned its engine off and on again at the worst possible moment, the Beresheet lander smashed into the moon at 300 miles per hour.
The good news: Those disks were designed to be indestructible. And the Arch Foundation is all but certain its payload survived the crash.
The landing was a little bumpier than expected, but airplane black boxes survive stronger impacts, and our disc is less breakable. Small, light objects, like our 100 gram library, do better in impacts. It was probably thrown a few km away – a 30 million page frisbee on the moon.
— Arch Mission Foundation (@archmission) April 12, 2019
“We have either installed the first library on the moon,” says Arch Mission co-founder Nova Spivack, “or we have installed the first archaeological ruins of early human attempts to build a library on the moon.”
The Foundation isn’t giving up on its lost moon library — and it wants your help in locating it. Spivack’s team has put together an open Google Doc with all the technical specs of the library alongside all details of the crash provided by SpaceIL, the Israeli nonprofit behind Beresheet. (SpaceIL collaborated with aerospace manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries and Israel Space Agency, Israel’s NASA, on the lander.)
It’s a math problem, basically, though one unlike any you ever encountered in school: If a spacecraft carrying a 100 gram object crashes on the moon at 300 miles an hour, how far away will that object land?
As the saying goes, “never let a crash on the moon get in the way of a great treasure hunt”
— Nova Spivack (@novaspivack) April 14, 2019
Already one aerospace engineer has suggested that the impact crater should be large enough for the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to spot — though it’s unlikely to be able to pick out anything as tiny as the little library that could.
SpaceIL has already announced that a second Beresheet mission will be attempted, perhaps with another library on board. In the meantime, as Spivack notes, “when you look at the Moon from now on, realize there is a lost library there containing Wikipedia, 30,000 books, 5,000 languages, and the history of the world.”
Not to mention a recipe for some pretty good queso.