Tonight is the last super moon of 2021, so make sure you soak in those heady lunar rays.
For a while, I’ve been tracking the activities of the Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to creating “a backup of planet Earth.”
A few years ago, they created something called the Lunar Library, an archive covering all subjects, cultures, nations, languages, genres, and time periods of human civilization.
Approximately the size of a DVD, the Lunar Library carries 30 million pages of data, with letters the size of bacteria laser-etched into nickel.
Whoever finds it will require a powerful microscope to read it.
Oh, and it’s built to last at least a billion years.
In April 2019, the Lunar Library was sent to the Moon aboard Beresheet, an Israeli lunar lander.
Unfortunately, Beresheet crash-landed, though the Arch Mission Foundation believes the Library is intact, scattered somewhere on the lunar surface.
Along with the Library, the Arch Mission Foundation also packed a leaf from the ancient Bodhi Tree, under which the Buddha is believed to have received enlightenment, various relics from saints and yogis, bits of earth scraped from sacred caves across the Earth, and a hoard of tardigrades. (Whether they survived the crash is unknown.)
It’s strange to think of extraterrestrials chancing upon the Lunar Library a few hundred million years from now and studying the archeological records of our peculiar little species.
What would they make of us?
Can any record, no matter how encyclopedic, ever communicate the essence of humanity?
It’s a question I’ve faced before.
Twelve years ago, the Kepler space telescope was launched from Cape Canaveral.
For nearly a decade it surveyed the Milky Way, identifying 530,506 stars and 2,662 exoplanets before running out of fuel.
The powered-down Kepler is now orbiting the Sun, 94 million miles behind the Earth, and is expected to slowly drift off into the vastness of space.
Conceivably, it too could one day be intercepted by an alien species and inspected for clues about our existence.
Which is weird to think about because I have a poem aboard Kepler.
While I’ve always struggled to place my verse in literary journals here on Earth, NASA was happy to accept a sonnet of mine for its own digital archive stored on Kepler.
The chances that E.T. will someday read my poem are astronomical, to say the least.
But if it does happen, in some galaxy far far away, I really hope they like it. (Though I freely admit I wrote it in fifteen minutes.)
Here’s the poem, in its entirety:
REASONS TO SEARCH FOR EARTH-LIKE PLANETS
Because the people here
are buying abstract paintings
daubed by Asian elephants.
Because they like Shakespeare
but prefer their drama
caught on hidden camera.
Because somewhere out there
among the ringworm of spiral galaxies,
among the crushed cereal puffs of star clusters,
there must be an audience for poetry.
Take this message to the Sun:
someday I will make it off this rock
if I have to cling to the back of a satellite
or stow away aboard a space-bound sonnet.