Sending information archives to the lunar surface for future generations

By Gavin Hung

Earlier in April 2019, the Israel Aerospace Industry attempted to land their Beresheet lander on the moon. However, in the last moments of the mission, contact with the spacecraft was lost, and the lander crashed onto the lunar surface. Aboard the lander was a “lunar library,” which housed 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, and dehydrated tardigrades. Tardigrades, which are less than a millimeter long and have been recorded to even survive in space, are one of the most resilient creatures on Earth. 

After analysis, it was ruled that the lunar library is at least mostly or entirely intact on the moon. News about the tardigrades possibly surviving the crash has sparked discussion about their presence on the moon, raising the question of whether lunar backups should be sent to the moon in the first place.

“On one hand, one potential intended audience could be any perspective alien civilization,” senior Michael Yang said. “Basically, it would give them information about who we are and where we came from. But the chances of us coming into contact with an alien civilization are pretty low. So another potential purpose of the backup, for example, is if World War 3 were to break out and civilization were to collapse.. then the backup would provide useful lost information.”

The lunar libraries can be used to spread or restore our existing knowledge of the universe to future generations or alien life. 

“I think sending organisms to other planets is bad, sending information about us to other planets is not bad,” physics teacher Jim Birdsong said.

Bringing living organisms to other planetary bodies can contaminate them with life from Earth and create false positives of alien life. However, the tardigrades were dehydrated and sent into their dormant state, meaning they will be unable to take over the moon. In order to revive the tardigrades, they must be brought back to an atmosphere and rehydrated. According to Wired, the sterile conditions of the moon make it perfectly fine to bring DNA and tardigrades onto the moon.

“The only way we can innovate and move forwards as a whole, as a globe, is to discover new things and expand our boundaries,” sophomore Pranay Malik said.

Launching the lunar libraries into space challenges humans with the ultimate test of bringing objects to space. In the future, the commonality of space launches will increase and this allows humans to increase our presence and test our launches.

The non-profit organization Arch Mission Foundation aims to create archives of the most valuable knowledge in places around the solar system and even around the remote places on Earth, such as mountain tops and in deep cave systems. The goal is to create collections of information where one could extract information for future use. 

Are the cases not applicable now?

“The only time that would come in handy is if you know humanity, we will be long dead because [there] would [be an] unlikely chance that an alien spacecraft would approach Earth,” Yang said. “Well, they wouldn’t go for the lunar backup first. They would go to the planet. If civilization were still there, then the backup would be unnecessary. So if the backup would come in handy, then either situation would not be favorable.”

There are situations in which lunar backups will provide humans in the future or in an apocalyptic situation knowledge. However, these situations seem unlikely in the near future. This does not rule out the decision to prevent future lunar backups from being placed. The potential of the libraries can spread knowledge to alien civilizations or give humans in the future knowledge. As of now, the lunar backups are allegorically planting seeds for the future generations and helping them in the long run.

Header image: “Moon: Craters, South East Tycho | Science Museum Group Collection” by James Hall Nasmyth is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA NULL

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