Uploading human history into space to counter our collective amnesia

It’s a first for at least two reasons: the Beresheet moon lander, on track to land on the moon on 11 April, will be the first country ever to have a moon landing mission privately sponsored and not government-backed, and will also be the first spacecraft to take a backup of the history of mankind into space for the preservation of human knowledge in cold storage. 

When Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft launched toward the moon in February, it was carrying mysterious cargo. Mission planners called it a time capsule but there was more behind it. Now the truth has been revealed by NBC News: The little lunar probe carries a 30-million-page archive of human knowledge etched into a DVD-size metal disc.

It is known as The Lunar Library. This archive constitutes a “civilization backup” to help ensure that our distant descendants never lose humanity's collective wisdom, according to Nova Spivack, co-founder of Arch Mission Foundation, the Los Angeles-based non-profit behind the project, NBC News reported.

“One of the primary evolutionary challenges that we face is amnesia about our past mistakes, and the lack of active countermeasures to repeating them,” Spivack said in an email. “For the survival of our species, we need to find ways to raise our awareness of what worked and didn't work, and we need to ensure it is shared with the people of the future,” NBC News revealed.

Included in the Lunar Library’s more than 200 gigabytes of data are the entire English-language version of Wikipedia; tens of thousands of fiction and nonfiction books; a collection of textbooks; and a guide to 5,000 languages along with 1.5 billion sample translations between them.

Also aboard Beresheet are two scientific instruments, including a magnetometer that could shed light on when and how the moon acquired its curious magnetic field, as well as a retroreflector. The device can reflect a laser beam sent from Earth so scientists can accurately measure the moon's distance, both to better understand Earth-moon dynamics and to carry out tests of gravity. NASA and Russian landers set up several such reflectors, but more will improve the system's accuracy, Science Mag reported.

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