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Microsoft Wants to Put New Time Capsule on the Moon

Time capsules are a traditional way of preserving the past through personal mementos, keepsakes and other items that are meant to represent the older generations. More often than not, time capsules are buried with the intent of being unearthed – either by the original creator of the capsule or by another person altogether – a decade or two later.

But some time capsules have a much larger scale – like the recent one pioneered by Microsoft and researchers at the Molecular Information Systems Lab at the University of Washington. Known as Memories in DNA, this venture invites the general public to submit their own photos for storage in a DNA-based system that is expected to last for millennia.

Their initial announcement surrounding the Memories in DNA remained rather modest. It was delivered across social media in a short, concise post stating: "It’s your turn to show us what should be preserved in DNA forever. We want people to go out and take a picture of something that they want the world to remember — it’s a fun opportunity to send a message to future generations and help our research in the process."

But now they're taking the Memories in DNA initiative one step farther. With the Arch Mission Foundation recently joining the team, the initiative has a goal of launching their time capsule – complete with user-submitted photos from all over the world – onto the surface of the moon by 2020.

Leaders with the project hope to include approximately 10,000 unique images alongside 20 classic books and other important items that are meant to represent the history of Earth and our presence in the 21st century.

All of this information will still be stored on synthetic DNA. Furnished by Twist Bioscience out of San Francisco, the company specializes on synthetic DNA for use in the sector of biotechnology.

Luis Ceze, professor with the University of Washington's Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, who first posted the announcement regarding Memories in DNA, spoke about the new development by stating: "With DNA, Nature really nailed information storage at the molecular scale. Our goal at MISL is to explore how to build revolutionary systems around it. Memories in DNA gives everyone an opportunity to participate and a way to preserve cherished memories. And now beyond planet Earth! We are honored to be part of this incredible project."

With that in mind, it seems that Microsoft will finally solidify their presence on the moon. Thanks to their recent partnership with the University of Washington and the Arch Mission Foundation, the trio is reaching for the stars – quite literally – in a bid to preserve data for future generations and maybe even future species.

Although the Memories in DNA project was initially announced in January 2018, it's generated tremendous interest all over the globe. It's also taken some twists and turns of its own, such as the recent idea of launching the time capsule to the moon by 2020. It will be interesting to see if their plans come to fruition – and exactly how it plays out in the years to come.


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