Category Archives: Solar Sci-Fi

Arch Mission sends data crystal disk with Asimov’s Foundation into space on Falcon Heavy

Along with the Tesla Roadster launched yesterday into deep space by the SpaceX Falcon Heavy, there was a unique optical recording disk made of long lasting quartz. The Arch Mission Foundation disk contains a copy of the famous Foundation Trilogy books by Isaac Asimov.  Arch Mission co-founder Nova Spivack describes the payload and goals of the organization:

Arch Mission Foundation Announces Our Payload On SpaceX Falcon Heavy

Arc Mission library disk on Falcon Heavy payload with recording of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy.

Our goal at the Arch Mission Foundation is to permanently archive human knowledge for thousands to billions of years. We exist to preserve and disseminate humanity’s knowledge across time and space, for the benefit of future generations.

To accomplish this we have begun building special Arch libraries (pronounced: “Arks”). Our first Arch libraries are data crystals that last billions of years. We plan to use many media types over time however — whatever material is the best available for the goal.

We are very happy to announce that our first Arch library, containing the Isaac Asimov Foundation Trilogy, was carried as payload on today’s SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch, enroute to permanent orbit around the Sun.

We are eternally grateful to Elon Musk and his incredible team for advocating the Arch Mission Foundation and giving us our first ride into space.

Watch as SpaceX describes the inclusion of the Arch payload during their launch event here [at 19:51 into webcast video]:

Here is a short video about what the Arch Mission is doing:

The Arch library that was included on the Falcon Heavy today was created using a new technology, 5D optical storage in quartz, developed by our advisor Dr. Peter Kazansky and his team, at the University of Southampton, Optoelectronics Research Centre.

This Arch library will orbit the Sun for at least millions of years alongside Elon’s Tesla Roadster. The Roadster will likely be the oddest object in the solar system, and thus is the perfect place to put an Arch library so that it can be noticed and retrieved in the distant future.

We are so honored that Elon is the recipient of the first 2 Arch libraries ever made. If anyone deserves them, it’s him. Arch1.1 now resides in Elon’s personal library, while Arch 1.2 is enroute with SpaceX to permanent Solar orbit.

Arch 1.1 and 1.2 are the first in a series of 5, and are two of the longest-lasting storage objects ever created by humans. They are immensely valuable artifacts; the product of decades of work to invent a new form of storage capable of serving the needs of the growth of big data.

We also owe a debt of gratitude to our incredible group of renowned advisors, without whom none of this would be possible. We would especially like to thank Michael Paul and Stephen Wolfram for their close support and advice.

Asimov’s Foundation Series was the inspiration for the Arch Mission Foundation, many years ago when we first conceived of this project. It is a metaphor for what we hope this can become, and it is the perfect cornerstone as our mission begins.

Layout diagram for the Arch Mission disk.

For this, we would also like to thank Asimov’s agent, Mel Berger, at WME Entertainment, for giving us permission to send this epic trilogy, to space, as an homage to Asimov’s brilliance and vision.

If you are not familiar, Asimov’s Foundation Series is important for its symbolism. The series’ protagonist Hari Seldon endeavors to preserve and expand upon all human culture and knowledge through a 30,000 year period of turmoil. We felt this was a very fitting first payload to include in the Arch.

What’s Next?

In subsequent Arch Mission updates we’ll add more curated information in more locations around the solar system, and on Earth as well, and using more forms of next-generation long-term storage media as well.

5D optical storage in quartz, decoding key

This will backup our civilization for eternity in a manner that will make it impossible to ever be lost or not rediscovered, and that will also make it impossible for anyone in the future who does find it to hoard the knowledge — the Arch libraries will be in too many locations for anyone to control access to them.

You can read all about our plans on our website,, but a brief summary is provided here.

The Solar Library™ will orbit the Sun for billions of years. We will continue to add to it over time with additional Arch libraries. 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.

We are developing a special Arch library that will be delivered to the surface of the Moon by 2020. This Arch will start the Lunar Library™, a collection of the most important documents, photos, videos and data of our species and will last for as long as the Moon itself.

We are also designing an Arch library to land on Mars. The Mars Library™ will be designed to supply a future human settlement on Mars with a vast collection of important knowledge from Earth — including perhaps a copy of a large portion of the Internet.

The Mars Library will seed a backup of Earth on Mars, in the event that the connection between Mars and Earth is ever lost in the future. It will also provide colonists on Mars with a massive data set with which to seed a local Internet and Web on Mars.

By eventually connecting the Arch Libraries, and the Arch storage devices they contain, through a decentralized read-write data sharing network, that spans the Solar system, we can begin to grow and share a collective decentralized library of everything humanity learns, on every planet in our solar system, and even beyond, as we spread.

This truly can evolve into Asimov’s vision of an Encyclopedia Galactica someday — an encyclopedia containing all the knowledge accumulated by a galaxy-spanning civilization.

Continue to the posting…


Audio: Remembering Ursula Le Guin

Popular writer Ursula K. Le Guin, known particularly for her many works in science fiction and fantasy, passed away this week. A reader points me to this report from Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) about Le Guin: … Ursula K. Le Guin Remembered … | OPB

And here is an interview with Le Guin in 2015: The Archive Project – Ursula K. Le Guin . Radio | OPB –


2018 Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival, Feb.23-25, New York City

The 2018 Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival

Announces Lineup Featuring Appearances by Armand Assante,
Charles Baker, Vincent Pastore, Tom Sizemore, Melvin Van Peebles,
Chuck Zito, And More Special Guests — 

— Oats Studios Presents Five Short Films by Academy Award
Filmmaker Neill Blomkamp —

— Guests To Experience Stunning Virtual Reality with 3D Sound —

(New York City, N.Y.) January 17, 2018 — We have film down to a science at The 2018 Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival, which announced today the full lineup of critically acclaimed films, exclusive premieres, panel discussions and virtual reality installations. The electrifying sixth annual event will feature appearances by show business heavyweights Armand Assante, Charles Baker, Vincent Pastore, Tom Sizemore, Melvin Van Peebles, Chuck Zito and more special guests. Screening in the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens, the festival will run from February 23-25, 2018.

This year’s festival has expanded its tribute to the father of science fiction, Philip K. Dick by broadening its scope of official selections. “Every year our films cover different themes of the PKD spectrum,” said Daniel Abella, the founder and director of the festival. “This event focuses heavily on inner worlds, transhuman realities and other types of films including speculative fiction, magical realism and surrealism. Just like PKD, we are very eclectic in our thinking and do not subscribe to one single unitary form of entertainment.”

The festival will feature appearances by numerous award-winning actors, filmmakers, scientists and innovators who are among the most successful individuals in the entertainment, medical and technology industries. “Real human exchange between ​the stars and the audience is a wonderful experience going back to classical Greece,” said Abella. “We are social creatures and need to be with others to find communion and transcendence.”

Abella added that the festival’s mission to represent society’s issues stands for the work and views of its namesake. “PKD was a modern-day prophet who foresaw the collapse of humanity under the colossal weight of data, technology and ecological devastation,” he said. “Narrative themes in these films are more effective in shaping popular thinking than a new review or manifesto. In our own modest way, the festival represents a resistance against monolithic hypercaptialism and rapacious technology. Think of it as technology with a soul.”


Space book: “Treknology” by Ethan Siegel

In astrophysicist Ethan Siegel’s new book Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive, he looks at the impact of Star Trek and science fiction in general on technological innovation and development : Star Treknology: Imagining The Future Into Being : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR

And how about that most Star Trek of Star Trek transport modalities — the transporter? Siegel manages to be both concise and complete in his discussion of the various ways a transporter might work. Do you actually move all the atoms of your body from one place to another? Or do you just transport the information about those atoms and then rebuild the body? These questions allow Siegel to unpack some basics of quantum physics, like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. From there, he opens discussions of information and quantum computing with questions like: How can you map the atoms in your body for transport when you can’t know exactly where they are leading? All of these ideas are laid out at just the right level for a light-hearted science book about science fiction.

Treknology is pretty complete. It has a section on weapons and defense (deflector shields, phasers), a section on computing (the holodeck, androids) and a section on medicine and biology (recorders, cybernetics). There is a lot more, too, and each chapter in each section is richly illustrated with images from the shows and well-composed scientific diagrams. That means a lot of eye-candy here for both Trek and science fans.


Books: Thoughts on “Pioneer” + More about Apollo 8

I recently posted an item about the “new” sci-fi novel Pioneer by Robert Zimmerman. While Bob is best known as a space historian and journalist, he produced this work of fiction back in 1982 when he was just starting out on his writing career. He set it aside after he had trouble finding a publisher. He came across the transcript in his files this year and decided it was worth releasing.

I’m glad he made it available. I finally had a chance to read it (always way behind on my reading) and wanted to say I really enjoyed it. The plot was laid out previously so I’ll just point out some aspects of the story and Solar Sci-Fi scenario that I found particularly interesting.

One of the reasons Bob released Pioneer was because of its depiction of a solar system where commercial ventures are prevalent and settlements on Mars and the Moon are being established. This fits well with what we see today with entrepreneurial companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin leading the way in innovations that are making access to space affordable and companies like OneWeb, Planet, and NanoRacks creating new space services and products.

However, the time frame of the book is not the early 21st Century but the late 22nd Century. Perhaps it was a symptom of those pessimistic years just a decade or so after the shutdown of Apollo that Bob could not see such ambitious space progress happening until a couple of centuries had passed. With Elon Musk planning Mars settlements and Jeff Bezo pushing for millions of people living and working in space, a grand expansion of life out into the solar system may happen sooner rather than later.

The technology depicted in the novel is also interesting. The spaceships in Pioneer have propulsion systems that can get the crews to distant parts of the solar system but not very quickly. Missions to the asteroids and outer planets take years to complete. This is a more realistic, down-to-earth scenario, so to speak, than warp drives sending ships to this or that star in days. It’s similar to what we see with deep space probes like Cassini, New Horizons, and Juno. However, it’s also a bit on the pessimistic side. Already there are credible fusion propulsion projects underway (e.g. see here and here) that offer major improvements over chemical propulsion. Perhaps in a coupe of decades, and certainly by the 22nd Century, most parts of the solar system should be accessible in months rather than years.

Bob has mentioned that he greatly under-estimated the rapid advances in micro-electronics and computers. I noticed in Pioneer there is also a lot of cable-handling for communications where today we would use wireless routers.

A writer of a “hard sci-fi” story must decide, though, what technologies will have “futuristic” capabilities and what will be similar to current tech. If everything is depicted as hyper-advanced, then the story may seem too magical, too untethered to reality for the reader to take seriously. It also becomes difficult to create a plot that has hurdles for the characters and their super-tech hardware to struggle against and overcome.

For example, if Bob’s characters had used a computer search tool that instantly returned answers extracted from humanity’s vast storehouse of knowledge, I expect many readers in 1982 would have scoffed. Today we take our browser search tools far too much for granted. They are really as wondrous as anything Merlin ever did in Camelot.

Ultimately, a novel in any genre needs interesting characters in a believable setting and a captivating plot. Pioneer has those things even if it doesn’t have Google.

One of Bob’s best known historical books is Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8, which describes the first time humans left earth’s realm and orbited a distant celestial orb.

A reader points me to a new book on the same mission by Jeffery Kluger: Apollo 8:  The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon. Kluger talks in the following video about why Apollo 8 ranks with 11 and 13 as the key missions of the Apollo program: