Recent advances in data storage technologies, such as optical storage and DNA storage, allow data storage for timescales of millions to billions of years. Alongside these developments, initiatives such as Lunar Mission One, the Long Now Foundation and the Human Document Project have promoted the long-term storage of data in order to foster public engagement and to preserve important data for future generations. However, proper concepts for long-term data storage in space are currently missing which match to the needs of stakeholders via the newly available technology.
The Voyager record (Image: NASA)
This project explores the rationales for data storage over millions to billions of years in space and develops three ‘time capsule’ concepts addressing specific stakeholder needs. First, existing stakeholders are identified and categorised with respect to their motivation. Stakeholder needs are interpreted from statements of motivation.
As key motivations, “encouraging global public engagement”, “moving humanity toward becoming a dual-planet species”, “embracing and constraining the information age”, and “allowing storage of information for a very long time” are identified. These needs are then arranged hierarchically for each stakeholder and the most prevalent needs are selected. Metrics are then assigned to each need.
One or more storage technologies and storage locations are recommended for each case study. A key technology for storage durations of millions to billions of years seems to be digital DNA storage. Future work aims at developing more detailed storage concepts along with the interactions with the space system into which it is going to be integrated.