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A library on the moon? This ambitious space mission is one for the books

By Adam Pockross
Moon surface

Israeli non-profit SpaceIL is trying to plop the first commercial lander on the moon. If they can hit reset on a somewhat inauspicious start, the ambitious project could potentially be carrying something to the moon that you might not expect to find there: a library.

Last week, the Beresheet lander — from the first word in Genesis, meaning “In the beginning” — was deployed from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the hopes of orbiting the Earth in long enough elliptical loops as to meet up with the orbit of the moon, and eventually land upon it. Alas, SpaceIL soon discovered that the sun’s rays were messing with the craft’s star tracker, the system that helps determine its position in the cosmos. 

While the company is still trying to correct that problem, yesterday, word came out that in an attempt to conduct a burn that would raise Beresheet’s elliptical orbit around the Earth, the craft failed to do so, and instead its computer surprisingly reset itself. Burn canceled.

But not the mission! The spacecraft is still in communication with the control center, and SpaceIL says (via CNET) they stand ready to try another burn again. Which is good news for moon-bound readers, because the lander is carrying with it a “lunar library,” according to Gizmodo

The Lunar Library is part of a “larger initiative to create a galactic archive of Earth,” which assumes that our fallible planet shouldn’t be the only place we house our history. As such, a small portion of the archive is being placed aboard Beresheet on a disk containing some 30 million pages of documents. Those documents collect images, text, and symbols, all of which tell part of the history of human knowledge and progress (which is kind of sadly ironic, considering such a safeguard will only be necessary if human progress on Earth actually stops).

The (hopefully) space-sustainable disk is one of 25 that will comprise the archive being put together by the Arch Mission Foundation (AMF), which they’re sending into the cosmos disk-by-disk, spacecraft-by-spacecraft. The Beresheet mission is but the first step in creating a lunar archive “designed to preserve the records of our civilization for up to billions of years,” according to AMF’s website.  

While the AMF’s first mission — the Solar Library — is currently riding shotgun aboard Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster, hoping to carry the Isaac Asimov Foundation Trilogy around the sun for the next 30 million years, their Lunar Library: Genesis mission appears, at least for the time being, to be dependent on Beresheet psyching itself up for another burn so it can land on the moon by April, as projected.

Hopefully we don’t all blow ourselves up before that happens.