First Books on the Moon

April has been quite a month for scientific events. Mark Alpert last Saturday discussed the recent presentation of an image of a black hole at the center of Galaxy M87 and gave us some insight, otherwise absent from most accounts, into the importance of what was revealed. Another attempted milestone which occurred this month was not as successful as the image presentation but was not entirely a failure, either. It is also extremely relevant to what we do.

I am referring to the crash landing on Earth’s moon of the SpaceIL Beresheet Lander. Lost in the disappointment of the Lander’s failure to achieve a soft lunar arrival was that 1) the Lander carried something named “The Arch Lunar Library” which 2) may well have survived the impact.  This particular payload is the first in a planned series of lunar archives prepared and maintained by the Arch Mission Foundation, a non-profit organization that tasks itself with maintaining a billion-year history of Planet Earth (this is done, I would guess, by people who, unlike myself, do not spend their time streaming Turkish crime series on Netflix). The Arch Lunar Library was preserved on something called “Nanofiche,” which is a disc-shaped medium as opposed to those flimsy cards of a similar name that spill all over the place when you try to get them into a reader at your local library without adult supervision.  Nanofiche will apparently last for thousands of years. The medium is so indestructible that it can probably be used to crush the last cockroach. Nothing damages it except for saltwater. It can outlast everything else, however, including, apparently, a crash lunar landing at otherwise destructive speed.

So what does the payload contain? Many, many things, including millions of images of pages of books: all sorts of books, fiction, non-fiction, how-to, what have you, books. It’s an ongoing project, so maybe a book that you are writing right now will be included in the future. I don’t mean to make you choke or anything, but there you go. Keep writing. Before you resume writing again, however, I strongly urge you to read the overview of the Lunar Library which will answer many of the questions I had, such as why someone was doing this. The article is a bit long, but it’s a quick read. It’s hair-raising in spots, but in a good way.

My question: if you were to pick a book to include in a project like this, which would it be? I’m not talking about your favorite book, necessarily. I’m talking about the book that you feel would be most appropriate, most deserving, for a project like this. My choice is an easy one: From the Earth to the Moon, by Jules Verne. What say you?

Happy Easter and Chag Pesach Sameach to all of my friends As Leonard Cohen said in a very different context, it would be a real drag without you.


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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

16 thoughts on “First Books on the Moon

  1. Since Asimov was an inspiration for the project, it should include at least one of his books. I’m hard pressed to single out one, but I loved The Caves of Steel (whole series) and I, Robot.

    • My first exposure to science fiction literature, Terry, was the Lucky Starr series by Paul French (aka Isaac Asimov) so…yes, absolutely. He is certainly spot on in many of his prophecies, particularly concerning robotics. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I have said before, Joe, that my Dad was a librarian, and I was raised in is library.

    I’m pleased that literature was on the Beresheet Lander. But what I also said before that the literature is space will always likely be kept in electronic gizmos, readers, things that you have to click, buzz, and wait for something to light up before you can access it. The words of everyone from Moses and the Apostle Paul to Pat Cornwell and Nelson DeMille that are pulled up by an engineer or a cook wanting to read and relax and recreate or worship, will be pulled up on something electronic.

    In space and beyond, there will never be as fine a library with stereopticon hand-held viewers, glass slides, stacks and stacks of magazines and books, horse’s hoove glue-pots, rubber return stamps, and all sorts of old, good stuff, as my Dad’s library.

    A logistical and practical necessity, but a shame.

    Never be as fine a librarian in space and beyond as my Dad.

    (My heart broke as I watched Mr. Netanyahu’s face when they determined that Beresheet had crashed. He is a man filled with such hope and optimism. I wish the landing had been successful.)

    Thanks for letting us know about the literature aboard the lander. I had somehow missed that.

    • Jim, I am a huge fan of Mr. Netanyahu as well for his optimism, among other things. His reaction to this setback was 1) we wanted to get to the moon, we got to the moon! and 2) we’ll try again. And they’ll make it the next time. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  3. Due to the nature of the project, I would suggest a pair of books about earth explorers and adventurers—To the Far Blue Mountains by Lois L’Amore for fiction, and Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose for non-fiction.

  4. Douglas…perfect choices. Thank you. I hope someone associated with the project is paying attention.

  5. Fascinating stuff, Joe. Interesting that “Arch” is pronounced “Ark.” Was that intentional, I wonder? Drawing a parallel between Noah’s biblical mission to preserve a pair of each species and this mission to preserve human knowledge?

    • Thanks, Debbie. I will answer with a lawyerly “I don’t know.” It’s certainly possible, but then it raises the question…why didn’t they just name it Ark. I, um, guess we’ll never Noah…

  6. I found an article on some of the contents. It includes the entirety of Wikipedia, language guides for 5000 languages, and magician David Copperfield’s magic secrets. Heck, now the aliens will be able to make the Statue of Liberty disappear. We’re doomed!

    The disks are as thin as human hair which makes them easy to land all over the place if the lander exploded on impact. Not a good thing.

    Beyond the greatest creative and research works of human history which I imagine is already up there, I’d like to see a decent mixture of what we read for fun. Also, from a non-literary viewpoint, seeds.

    • Marilynn, I thought I read someplace — maybe in that document that I have hyperlinked in my post, and which also includes a partial list of what is on the discs — that the discs are contained in something to guard against them scattering across the lunar landscape and thus transforming it into vaguely resembling the floor of my car. I like the idea of the seeds. I know that the Arch wasn’t the only payload on the vessel and perhaps one of the other ones has similar cargo. Great idea, in any event. Thanks!

  7. Good afternoon, Joe.

    Very interesting post. Thanks for the link to the overview of the Lunar Library. I skimmed over it, and found one of the last chapters very interesting – the description of the lengths to which the creators went to put so much design into the arch that any future being who found it would see the obvious – that it was designed by an intelligent being. Too bad those same creators could not see the overwhelming design of the entire universe. Enough said.

    Have a wonderful and happy Easter!

    • Good afternoon, Steve, and thank you. Happy Easter to you! What concerns me about some of these projects is that they assume that a civilization which finds them will have peaceful intent when they may be the ants and we may be the sugar on the sidewalk. Perhaps we should just include a phone number instead of directions, and then make them run around our solar system the way that Scorpio made Harry Callahan chase all over San Francisco. Anyway, thanks for stopping by.

    • Excellent point, Kay. I would think at least the Torah or perhaps the Tanakh, given the connection of Israel with the launching. Thanks!

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