Last week saw the launch of the Falcon Heavy and it carried Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster as its payload. We have all been focusing on that unique cargo but it turns out that there was a second secret payload that we were unaware of. A mysterious, small object designed to last for millions of years was stashed inside the Tesla Roadster.
The device is called Arch (pronounced Ark). It is a tiny storage device built for long-term data archiving. It will hold libraries of information encoded on a small disc of quartz crystal, roughly the same size of a coin. According to Arch Mission Foundation, the California-based nonprofit behind the technology, these Archs could “preserve and disseminate humanity’s knowledge across time and space, for the benefit of future generations”.
The secret payload looks like a miniature DVD or Blu-ray. However, its potential to store data goes way beyond any such disks we may have in our homes. Physicist Peter Kazansky from the University of Southampton in the UK developed the technology and it can hold up 360 terabytes of data which is the same amount as 7,000 Blu-Ray disks.
The data storage capacity is impressive in itself but what is even more impressive is its ability to survive. The first two disks are called Arch 1.1 and Arch 1.2 are two of the longest-lasting storage objects to have been created by humans and can stable for up to 14 billion years theoretically. This is due to the 5D data storage inscribed by laser nanostructuring in quartz silica glass.
The Arch 1.2 disk is the secret payload currently making its way into the depths of space abroad Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster. The disk is loaded with Issac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, a seminal sci-fi classic, similarly concerned with the concept of preserving human knowledge and culture in a vast Universe.
The Arch’s developers have named this maiden disc launch as the Solar Library. “The Solar Library will orbit the Sun for billions of years,” explains co-founder Nova Spivack.“Think of it as a ring of knowledge around the Sun. This is only the first step of an epic human project to curate, encode, and distribute our data across the Solar System, and beyond.”
Further launches are planned for 2020 and 2030. These will be Lunar and Mars Arch libraries and will aim to send backups of human knowledge to the Moon and Mars. “By eventually connecting the Arch Libraries, and the Arch storage devices they contain, through a decentralised read-write data sharing network that spans the Solar System, we can begin to grow and share a collective decentralised library of everything humanity learns, on every planet in our Solar System, and even beyond, as we spread,” Spivack says.
That is one ambitious dream but just a couple of months back, the talk of having a car floating in outer space was an ambitious dream as well.