What Is the NASA Knowledge Ark Project?
Simply put, a project to save all of humanity's knowledge out in space in case the worst happens. Hopefully it will never be needed, but if it is, hopefully it will be there waiting.
There seems to currently be no such project underway at NASA, which is why this blog was started, namely, to give them a kick in the pants. Going to Mars, sending out scientific satellites etc. are all nice, but what's the point of gaining all this knowledge if it can all be lost in a single day with a global Armageddon? If it can be done, it should be done. Its success would forever justify the entire space program. I envisage this project as essential for as long as humanity is vulnerable to an atomic apocalypse, in other words, the rest of the century at least. The basic mission operating statement of NASA should be modified to make it their main mission, with all other activities revolving around it.
How would it work?
At this point only rough estimates can be made. Because of its apocalyptic premise, the entire system will need to be based outside Earth and its gravity, concentrating on broadcasting knowledge to it electronically when/if needed. We have to assume that no place on Earth will be safe, but it's likely the Moon will be, therefore the first thing needed is a Moon base with high bandwidth Internet communications with Earth so that humanity's knowledge can be uploaded constantly till the end, as a baseline the entire contents of the Internet. For this purpose super-high capacity uplink stations will be needed on Earth, perhaps with a layer of Earth-orbiting satellites as an intermediate stage. The main Moon base will then upload its knowledge base to other bases, perhaps on the dark side of the Moon, as well as to remote satellites on long elliptical orbits. If the worse happens, these bases will supervise the downloading of the knowledge base to Earth when it is ready, which could conceivably be decades or centuries. Research is already underway to build digital storage that can last longer than that. The latest technology will be used to make it possible and cut costs, including robots, 3-D printing, etc. Hopefully no humans will have to be sent into space for the project to be done, but if so, they will only stay only as long as necessary then leave after the system becomes self-sustaining.
Behind all of this will be the need to prepare for the worst in space too, particularly hostile actions to take it down or coopt it, as well as dangers from asteroids, micrometeorites, and cosmic radiation. It will have to be super-redundant and long-lived. I envisage a set of satellites on long concentric elliptical orbits, with periods of 10 years, 25 years, 50 years, 100 years, and 500 years, and a lifespan of at least 1000 years. The satellites on the really long orbits will be the most safe from enemy attacks, if the worst happens, but hopefully won't be needed, but hopefully will survive no matter what.
The Earth Restart Program (ERP)
Once the satellites return they will hook up with the Internet if there still is one, and if there isn't establish a new one. They will start by communicating with the Moon base or bases, and if they're non-functioning, with Earth bases, and if they're non-functioning, with anybody on Earth who will respond. Perhaps they can land on the Moon and establish a new base if needed. They should be prepared for the worst, including sending data via Morse Code, starting with instructions on how to make everything from a Model T on up, therefore an Earth Restart Program (ERP) will have to be prepared by a consortium of knowledge and education experts. Of course, after an atomic apocalypse the natural resources available will be different, so each eventuality has to be programmed into the ERP.
Why a NASA project?
The U.S. has long been the leader of the free world, and as such only it can be trusted to maintain a truly complete knowledge base free of political-religious censorship. Other nations can be made into junior partners, but they should never have any ability to tamper with the knowledge base. If the worse happens, namely world war, some of these nations will by definition become our enemies, and this must be guarded against. Only the U.S. can be trusted to be fair-minded enough to trust the world's entire knowledge to. Of course, NASA will need the cooperation of all nations to upload their entire knowledge base, which includes top-secret scientific-technical knowledge, and this problem will require unprecedented agreements and probably breakthroughs in technology, but it can be done if the will is there.
There's also the need for the government to solve legal problems. There is already the Internet Archive that's been archiving the contents of the WWW for years, but for this project which is run by the same government that grants copyright, trademark, and patent protection it needs to create legal arrangements whereby people and organizations can upload trade secret material for preservation. Of course, being government-owned, it can host government data at all security levels. The problem will be getting other governments to cooperate. Obviously it can't become a U.N. in space because of the large number of anti-U.S. and anti-Israel anti-democratic governments, so again it needs to be a NASA project that at least tries to preserve the knowledge of the free world.
While I might be mistaken and it can be done for just a few billion dollars, I envisage the project as bigger than the Apollo Project, requiring perhaps 200K total employees, including private contractors, and a budget 10 times NASA's current budget, requiring a major national and international commitment. Is America really the last best hope of mankind? Is American exceptionalism well-grounded? Here's NASA's chance to prove it for history.
How can it be started?
NASA's top brass needs to commit to the concept, then approach Congress for funding. Realistically the project will not only be bigger than the Apollo Project, but take as long or longer to field, after which it will require a permanent operating budget. The president will have to be behind it 100%, like Kennedy was with the Apollo Project. It's not like we're racing an archenemy for political bragging rights, but rather we're trying to save civilization itself, and it should call forth our best instincts. There is great challenge at many levels, not just technological, but logistical in systematizing the collection of all human knowledge. Unfortunately, like other government programs it will end up being staffed with legions of narrow-minded bureaucrats, which could greatly hamper it. That's why for the purposes of ultimate success, a supergeneralist brain man will be needed to direct it at the top as the Oppenheimer so to speak. I, T.L. Winslow, just happen to be available, hint hint, so let's talk.
Meanwhile no matter how lame NASA is in doing what's right, they can at least start inserting huge capacity fixed memory devices containing copies of the contents of the Internet in their space vehicles, since when it comes to preserving humanity's knowledge in space a little is better than nothing.
Keep coming back to this blog for developments, and help by spreading the url far and wide.