#102 February 1997
Section 126.96.36.199.102.of the Artemis Data Book
by Peter Kokh
The sterile, airless Moon is already a depository of much cosmic information. Within some lava tube secure from cosmic weather, humans can take a cue and create the Grand Archives of Earth and Humanity.
Archiving, specifically and specially of the asteroidal and cometary debris bombardment of the lunar surface, and well as of the aeons of solar wind particle buffeting, have built into the magnificent desolation of the global moonscapes an eons-thick scientific archive of inestimable value. As such, the Moon has served, and still serves, as a natural probe of the near solar environment that our human-made robotic probes can only hope to dimly emulate.
The conditions on the fully exposed lunar surface, even more so within the partial shelter of permashade, and best in the yet-to-be-sampled full-sheltered environments within subsurface lunar lava tubes are such that deliberate archiving by humans of both cultural artifacts and vulnerable biological samples and specimens, are a suggested-in-heaven industry of considerable economic value for future Lunan settlements. Archiving will be one Lunan activity with all the marks of a 'vocation' or 'calling.'
Archiving on Earth is, and has always been, an activity fraught with danger, peril, and inevitable disaster. Remember the Library of Alexandria, and the art treasures of Florence lost in the flooding of the Arno, treasures and records destroyed in war, by earthquakes, mud slides, fires, and hurricanes, sadly, even by vandalism. The safest and most secure and environmentally stable environments on Earth can guarantee preservation of objects, artifacts, and records for relatively short times. Sooner or later, all human treasures preserved on Earth will be lost to the forces of human activity, weather, biological activity, and geological forces within Earth itself.
The sight lines of most of us are short. We pretend to worry about a slate-wiping asteroid that may hit us any time over the next few millions of years. Yet no Canadian or Scandinavian loses a night's sleep over the certain revisit of the great ice sheets within the much shorter time frame of the next ten thousand years or so. Most of us care about what carries over to the next generation. After that -- we're content to let the next generation worry about it. That is why the inexorable deterioration of the biosphere and of Earth's living ecosystems does not bother most of us. It is sufficiently slow relative to our own personal four score years of life expectancy. Apres mois, la deluge! ("After me, the deluge.")
But there have always been those with a more eternal vision, from the scribes of ancient times to the Pharaohs to the medieval monks. The upshot is that much of human history has in fact been carefully preserved despite common indifference. Yet in the long run, what we add by archeological, philological, and historical research only adds to the amount of knowledge that will inevitably be irretrievably lost.
The first task facing would-be curators of the Musea Humana is to find a depository site large enough and secure enough to preserve accumulated human intellectual, industrial, cultural, artistic, and similar wealth not just for a few generations, or even some centuries or millennia, but for veritable eons -- yes, for billions of years!
Why! Certainly some for religious reasons based upon fundamentalist literary interpretation of this prophetic text or that, will be dogmat-certain of the impending "end of the world" and see such an archiving task as complete folly and poppycock.
This essay is for the rest of us, not fortunate enough to be blessed with such private certitudes. For us, the reasons why are several. Transgenerational memory, without the prop of preserved reminders (museums and archives) are very short and quite inaccurate. Handing on knowledge of the present and past is one of the sure values we have to give the generations who follow us (along with a well-husbanded environment over which we exercise only temporary stewardship, a weightier burden than most feel or realize.) We need to preserve the record (as well as to add to it!) in a way that will keep it safe and inspirational and educational for generations to come. We have to think in "time capsule" mode.
Beyond the edification of far future descendants is the more mystical need felt by even fewer of us to preserve the human, and Gaian, record even beyond the possible death of humanity and Earth life as a whole. For whom? For others, maybe never, maybe just once or twice -- we cannot know or estimate -- of other origins, who happen by this way in their sojourning through whatever interstellar neighborhood the ruins of Old Earth find themselves at the time. It is a need, a sacred call, to give witness. For what we have achieved and done, at least the modicum of positive within the pile, will give eloquent testimony to whatever Creative Agency(ies) that led to and fed our rise as an intelligent species.
The only place to do such archiving for the eternities is on the Moon, in (an) intact lava tube(s) that has(have) already survived inviolate for going on four billions of years -- not millions, billions! Any passerby surveying our solar system, in whatever shape it may be in at the time, however distant in the future that visit may occur, cannot but come to the same conclusion. In all this System, lunar lava tubes are the most secure possible repository. (This is, of course, prior to the Sun's eventual aging and pre-death expansion into an inner planet melting red giant star before contracting into a white dwarf cinder some billions of years down the road.).
If you follow this line of reasoning, it should become clear that any visitors who have come our way in the distant prehuman past will have seen lunar lava tubes as the only site worth considering if they chose to leave behind some testimony of their passing (whether it be information about themselves or the more Cheshire Cat-like smile of leaving us a record of the Earth and its biosphere of that time, something of a depth and completeness and richness that we could never hope to reconstruct on our own. Thus incomprehensibly enriching witness of a visit can be left without prejudice to the "Prime Directive" which may enjoy widespread if not cosmos-wide respect.
When we think of archives, we think of such inevitably trivial data such as genealogical records, and perhaps a more worthwhile mix of artistic and literary treasures encompassing the mediocre and degraded as well as the sublimely inspired. Government, institutional, bureaucratic and other historical records will be in the trove, to be sure -- leaving to the future to find whatever is of value to those mining the hoard. Exhaustive samples of industrial creativity and scientific achievement must be included if the whole sample is to have unskewed worth.
Biological records will be a principal part of the whole. Intact preserved samples of every extant species will be priceless in a future in which many species will have become extinct. A geological picture of the ever-changing Earth and an astronomical survey of the solar neighborhood out to galactic depths will help future visitors pin down the epoch in which the archives were created, and the length of time during which they were maintained.
Archive science will spur much inventiveness as archivers strive to find and use ever better methods of preservation, display, and cataloging. As such, archiving will become a driver of progress of considerable value, creating for Lunans considerable intellectual property value.
At present, all industrial, historical, and art collections and records on Earth are at risk. In many cubic miles of available lunar lava tubes, immune to cosmic and geological events, with constant temperature, absolutely dry vacuum, total darkness and minimal background radiation, we will find our single best bet to keep safe for others the record of what we have collectively achieved, as well as of what nature has left us to steward. Low-maintenance very long life presence/motion-activated solar electric lighting along archive aisles can be installed for use during surface dayspan.
Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto