This is about two fundamental observations with regard to Wikipedia. One has to do with space: There’s always space, because our encyclopedia will never run out of paper. The other observation is about time: You have all the time in the world to edit Wikipedia. Do it whenever you feel like adding to the sum of all human knowledge. Wikipedia is never finished, just keep contributing. No editorial deadlines, no character limits.
However, we want to challenge these basics for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: In the year of Wikipedia’s 15th anniversary, the global community is given a very special birthday gift. We can send the free encyclopedia to the Moon! Literally.
And this is how it works: A group called “Part-Time Scientists” are about to send a rover to the Moon and they are planning to take the Wikipedia with them. The Part-Time Scientists are one of a handful of international teams that compete for the “Google Lunar XPRIZE”. The competition started in 2007, challenging science enthusiasts from around the world to bring a rover to the surface of the Moon, get it to drive at least 500 meters and send images to the Earth. Many have accepted the challenge, only a few are nearing the finish line. The Part-Time Scientists, based in Berlin, Germany, are among them. Their very own Moon rover comes with room for a number of scientific experiments and special data discs that are made of ceramic. Having been great Wikipedia fans for years, the Part-Time Scientists are offering Wikimedia Deutschland the chance to use one of the discs for Wikipedia content.
We have accepted the challenge and are committed to make this project a gift to the global Wikipedia community, because we are convinced that there is only one way to honor 15 years of collaborative vision and volunteer enthusiasm: For the community, by the community.
In 2001, Wikipedia hit the start of the new millennium and nobody could have imagined that 15 years later, this open, bold, and pioneering experiment would account for the most extensive snapshot of human knowledge in our times.
In 1977, the Voyager mission used the famous “Golden Record” to send greetings, music samples, and some images to outer space. Let’s make this challenge our “Golden Record 2.0” and create collaboratively a time capsule of both, knowledge and spirit. Wikipedia to the Moon!
Wikipedia is free knowledge. Anyone can use it and re-use it. Why don’t we just take an open dump and put it on the data disc? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that: The English-language Wikipedia alone is much bigger than the available storage volume of about 20 Gigabyte. And that is not counting edit histories or any media files at all, just plain text of the current revision. What is more, even though the English Wikipedia contains by far the most articles of any of the Wikipedias, there are almost 300 language versions of the free encyclopedia. In short, disc space is limited while Wikipedia is abundant. Thus, there needs to be a selection of content, which reveals the true challenge behind the project: What do we choose? Who gets to decide? How do we do this?
These questions are all rooted in one of Wikipedia’s greatest strengths. Knowledge varies, and so do Wikipedia articles in their respective language versions. There isn’t a canonical knowledge core, from which all translations in every of the hundreds of languages could be copied from. To the contrary, content in various languages is shaped by numerous conditions, including but not limited to cultural factors, the number of editors, rules specific to language communities, access to the internet and many more. But if you get the chance to bring the sum of all human knowledge to the Moon, should you not strive to represent the same diversity that has made Wikipedia the world’s most famous collaborative project to date?
Our goal is to reach community consensus on how Wikipedia ought to be represented on our “Golden Record 2.0”—and ensure that all data is prepared accordingly. In order to achieve that, we need to discuss and decide on the questions above, and finally work on content for the time capsule. There’s roughly half a year available for all preparations, because every year on December 5 the United Nations call on the world to make visible the work of volunteers all over the world. The “International Volunteers Day” was designated in 1985 and this year it will mark the perfect occasion to “wrap” our Wikipedia gift, so that it can become part of the Moon rover’s official payload for 2017.
How to do it
Millions of articles, thousands of editors, hundreds of language versions. Maybe it is possible to make a perfect selection, i. e. one that is celebrated by the global community at-large. Maybe it’s not, in which case there will be many arguments about equal representation, quality of content, or of biased selection criteria. Either way, we need to be open for suggestions, acting transparently, and assuming good faith. You will find three draft scenarios on this project’s discussion page. Their main purpose is to illustrate how the challenge could be tackled. Each scenario is bound to have advantages as well as disadvantages over the other ones. Please consider them as food for thought and be bold in evolving scenarios or drafting entirely different solutions or propositions.
|18 April–3 June||Phase 1: discussing||
|10–24 June||Phase 2: voting||
|21–26 June||Wikimania Esino Lario||
|Jul 1–Oct 31||Phase 3: working||
|31 Oct.–15 Nov.||Phase 4: wrapping||
|5 December||International Volunteer Day||
About Part-Time Scientists
The name is telling. The team of engineers and scientists came together in 2008 and enlisted to the X challenge. Their goal is to reduce mission costs by using cheaper and more modern equipment in order to make space travel available to more scientists. The team lead is Robert Böhme. A 2013 presentation by him about the team, their motivation, and mission basics is listed below. In the early days, the Part-time Scientists literally volunteered in part-time. Team member Karsten Becker comments: “It is remarkable what people can achieve in just their free time. You see that also on the example of Wikipedia.” Today a core team of about 12 people work full-time on the final preparations for the Mission-to-the Moon. In addition, they rely on a network of another 60 or so volunteers who help them with their mission. Among them is Jack Crenshaw, who worked on the trajectory calculations for NASA’s Apollo programs.
- Website http://ptscientists.com
- 54-min presentation “Hell yeah, it’s rocket science!” (Berlin, re:publica 2013) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlcYQOVwYKg
About the „Moon team“ at Wikimedia Deutschland’s
A number of people have been involved after we were contacted. Our own little Moon team: long-time Wikipedians Cornelius and Martin, Elisabeth who is working on texts and layout, and Jan who is our spokesperson and press contact (see below for info to join, too). Michael has coordinated the first steps.
Press contacts/local ambassadors
During Phase 1 (discussing scenarios) the project Wikipedia to the Moon is just an internal discussion what Wikipedia data should be send to the Moon. This discussion is meant to involve mainly the communities of the Wikimedia projects. Once it is decided how the project will be shaped, phase 3 (working) starts in July 2016. We plan to reach out to a broader public to invite everybody to get involved and to share their knowledge to be brought to the Moon.
The following list contains the press contacts. Please reach out to a person near you.
|Country||Name||Please reach out to me via||Notes|
phone +49 (0)30 219 158 26-0
|I work for Wikimedia Deutschland|
|Spain||David Abián||davidabianwikimedia.es||Member for Communications, Board of Directors, Wikimedia España|
|Czech Republic||Michal Reiter||michal.reiterwikimedia.cz||Board Member, Spokesperson|
|Switzerland||Stéphane Coillet-Matillon||stephane.coilletwikimedia.ch||Your friendly Kiwix guy at WMCH|
|WMF||Sam Lien/Juliet Barbara||slienwikimedia.org||WMF media/PR contacts|
+48 790 290 766
|Spokesperson, Wikimedia Polska|
|Bangladesh||Moheen Reeyad||moheenreeyadwikimedia.org.bd||Board member, Wikimedia Bangladesh|