Humanity’s Backup Plan

Tales of civilization coming to a sudden end are as old as human civilization itself, from the Biblical tale of Noah through to Plato’s story of Atlantis. And so are stories of knowledge being passed on to those few remaining individuals who survived and had to rebuild.

When the Beresheet lander – a private Israeli space mission – sadly crashed on the Moon in April, it took with it the ‘Lunar Library’: a stack of 25 nanotechnology ‘discs’ made out of pure nickel which, altogether, are about the thickness of a standard DVD. On those discs are about 30 million printed pages of information to tell anyone that discovers it in the future all about human civilization.

The discs were created by the Arch Mission Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to be “humanity’s back-up plan”. And, despite the lander’s unfortunate crash, the foundation believes that those discs could still be in working order. Which means they’ll be around for quite a while: nickel isn’t affected by space radiation or the moon’s temperature extremes, so – barring a direct meteor impact – it will likely last billions of years.

Nova Spivack, co-founder and chairman of the Arch Mission Foundation, spoke at length about the project recently in a podcast interview (recorded while the lander was still orbiting, before it crashed). When asked about why the project aimed for the Moon (literally), he replied “It’s best practice in the IT space to have an off-site back-up…[but] we have plans to put these on Earth as well.”

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