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Nickel microfiche
The Lunar Library will be stored as microfiche images etched on stamp-sized squares of nickel. A dime is set among the squares to provide a sense of scale. (Arch Mission Foundation Photo)

The Arch Mission Foundation is partnering with Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic to have a miniaturized library sent to the moon’s surface aboard a lunar lander in 2020.

The Lunar Library will include a wide range of works — including the contents of Wikipedia and the Long Now Foundation’s Rosetta Project, a library of the world’s languages. The text will be printed on 20-micron-thick, stamp-sized sheets of nickel, using a laser etching technique that can produce letters as small as bacteria. (You’d need a 1000x optical microscope to read the pages, but you wouldn’t need a computer.)

“We’re thrilled the Arch Mission Foundation has selected Astrobotic. It’s humbling to think our mission to the moon will deliver something that could be read millions of years from now,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said today in a news release. “Arch’s Lunar Library will be a monument not only to human knowledge and culture, but also the first commercial mission to the moon.”

Astrobotic is aiming to send its Peregrine lander to the moon on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket in 2020, potentially as part of NASA’s reworked lunar exploration initiative. Because of its miniaturized design, the Lunar Library could fit 30 million pages in a thin cylindrical container about the size of a DVD.

This wouldn’t be the first library launched into space. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket sent the Arch Mission’s micro-printed copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy into deep space, packed along with the Starman mannequin aboard Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster.

Arch Mission also has plans to send libraries to Mars and other cosmic locales.

“Through massive replication around the solar system, we will be able to guarantee that the Arch Libraries will never be lost — even millions to billions of years in the future,” said Nova Spivack, co-founder and chairman of the Arch Mission Foundation.

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