Wikipedia to the Moon/FAQ

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Home Phase 1: scenarios Phase 2: voting Phase 3: working Phase 4: wrap-up About FAQ
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The funny thing about FAQ is that they are often published before people have even begun asking questions. So, they cannot really be “frequently asked”. Maybe they should rather be called “strongly anticipated”? Anyway, here you find a list of initial questions about Wikipedia to the Moon. It’s a wiki, so please feel free to add more questions. The Wikimedia Deutschland Communications team will be checking them regularly. Here you go:

Is this a joke?

No. We're serious!

Who is behind this?

The Part-Time Scientists have been working on their Moon project since 2008. They have enlisted to the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge. As the name suggests, the team started out as hobbyists. To this day, they are based in Berlin, working on their Moon rover, the landing module, trajectory, and a million other details. The team has grown to about a dozen people, now mostly working full-time as the project nears its finale. Their lead sponsor is Audi. They are also supported by a network of volunteer enthusiasts like former Apollo space program trajectory calculator Jack Crenshaw. The Part-Time Scientists have reached out to Wikimedia Deutschland, asking if the Chapter could arrange for preparing Wikipedia content for one 20 GB data disc. The main contacts at Wikimedia Deutschland for the Wikipedia challenge are Michael Jahn and Jan Apel, have a look at the About page.

Why do the Part-Time Scientists want to bring Wikipedia to the Moon?

They are great fans of Wikipedia! That’s the bottom line. Also, going to space is not only difficult, but needs teamwork and efficiency. That’s why space missions come with so-called payload, meaning that resources are combined and you take as many things with you as you can, mostly scientific experiments. The rover of the Part-Time Scientists will hold a couple of experiments, but they have capacity for data, too. When they started thinking about what data to take to the Moon, Wikipedia was a no-brainer to them. It’s like Voyager’s 1977 Golden Record, only with more knowledge, more cultural insights, more community. They also would like to see Wikipedia as a digital Rosetta Stone, being a key to reading humanity at the beginning of the third millenium.

Karsten Becker of the Part-Time Scientists claims: “I believe that Wikipedia has collected the most important human knowledge in a very structured way. This acts as a contemporary document. To take a copy of the human knowledge with us means to archive a moment in time. If you’ll take a look at Wikipedia in 10, 50 or 100 years, it will look totally different. We think it’s a good idea to store a decentralized back-up that no one can change so easily. And of course we’ll leave it there so that aliens who come by have something nice to read.”

How does Wikipedia actually get into space?

The mission of the Part-Time Scientists includes much more than building the rover and driving it on the Moon. They will join a commercial space flight, e. g. a rocket launch to orbit. From there, their own lunar lander module will travel to the Moon, the final task being to land safely and release the rover. Actually, there will be two rovers, for redundancy reasons.

Why can’t we bring all of Wikipedia to the Moon?

Wikipedia is available in almost 300 language versions, totalling almost 40 million articles. English Wikipedia alone holds more data than would fit on the available medium, a ceramic-made data disc.

Can’t we use some other medium with more space?

The conditions in space prove hostile to many data mediums. Traditional CDs or DVDs would be destroyed in space, because they are composed of layers and would come undone. It’s different with a medium made of ceramics. Also, you have to consider the dimensions and weight of your medium. The ceramic disc is light enough and resilient.

Who is supposed to find the disc? Aliens?

Probably not … but well, who knows? No, the Lunar challenge is mainly about pioneer spirit, curiosity, and visions for humanity. So, with the symbolic act of leaving a snapshot of human history on the surface of the Moon, we are thinking more about future generations than aliens. Maybe no one will ever find the disc, let alone be able to decipher it. But private space travel is only getting started, and maybe future generations will set foot on the Moon again, be it for touristic, scientific, business, or whatever reasons. Our very special Wikipedia time capsule will be there, as a historical document. And it will be special, indeed, because historical messages to the future have never before been worked on by so many people, representing so many cultures and perspectives on knowledge.

How can I contribute? / How can I be part of the project?

Please edit! Basically, you will be able to contribute on-wiki to any phase of Wikipedia to the Moon, starting with the discussion of scenarios.

Do I need a Wikipedia account to take part in the project?

As in all Wikimedia projects, it is recommendable to have a personal account, because being logged-in has many advantages when it comes to communication. However, you don’t need a personal account to participate in discussions. If you decide to not create/use a personal account your IP address will be displayed when saving an edit.

What are the steps of the project?

If this is supposed to work as a community-driven process, we need to discuss first. What does it all mean? How should we move forward? This is phase 1, and it is open for contribution from day 1. Please discuss here. There need to be four phases altogether, because once you start a discussion you will always need to reach a conclusion, which we are planning to get in Wikipedia style, i. e. with a vote. The official part of curating the content for Wikipedia to the Moon will begin after that, in July 2016. Later that year, in the fourth and final phase, there will be time to deal with any issues or surprises that may or may not have come about in the process. The goal is to celebrate the International Volunteers Day on December 5 with our official time capsule. The rocket launch itself will not happen before Q4 of 2017, but payload needs to be prepared well in advance. For a detailled timetable see the About page.

Do I have to go with one of the suggested scenarios?

No, you can also suggest one yourself. This project is meant to be community-driven. Not all scenarios will convince everybody. A discussion is most welcome, and so are edits to outlined scenarios.

Which languages is the content for the Moon going to include?

That will ultimately depend on which scenario the Wikipedia community agrees on. We can’t say before the community discussion and subsequent voting are finished. However, with knowledge in almost 300 languages, diversity is at the heart of the Wikipedia project. Its global use is part of what makes Wikipedia unique. As a message to future generations it makes a lot of sense to strive for broad representation, doesn’t it?

Why is English the default language of this site?

Meta-Wiki makes it possible for Wikipedians to contribute via their Single User Login. Since the project is designed to first discuss the basic ideas and get feedback, Meta-Wiki is a better choice than any of the language versions of Wikipedia. Language skills are always an issue with global discussion, because whichever language you choose, this will put some users in a better position to participate than others. The default language of Meta-Wiki is English, but the translation extension enables anybody to add page translations. Please feel free to translate! However, it will be impossible to translate ongoing discussions, because potentially every Wikipedian in the world may take part in the discussion and the volume of feedback cannot be followed simultaneously in many languages.

What will the rover do with the data disc, once it’s on the Moon surface?

The disc may either remain with the rover, because it needs to be firmly secured/installed for the landing procedure, or it may be dropped to the surface. There is no final decision yet, because engineering needs to be considered.

What is planned on the mission except the Wikipedia part?

The main challenge for the Part-Time Scientists is to land their rover safely, then move it at least 500 m and send images to earth. Their payload includes a number of scientific experiments like a small box in which plant growth under space conditions will be analyzed. Furthermore, it is planned to repeat an experiment from an earlier Apollo mission, double-checking results from a soil analysis.

What is the role of Audi and Google in this project?

There are several X Prize challenges, of which Google has created the Lunar challenge. Google is basically hosting the competition. They are not involved with what the project teams are doing. Audi, on the other hand, is the lead sponsor of the Part-Time Scientists. They have been working together for years on the rover design and technical aspects. You can visit their own joint mission website. There is no connection to our own Wikipedia challenge. The Part-Time Scientists have offered one data disc to us because they love Wikipedia. Neither Google nor Audi are involved in how we approach our Wikipedia challenge.

Is there a launch date?

Yes, probably Q4 2017. The Part-Time Scientists are in the process of finalizing the exact launch window. However, the Wikipedia anniversary year ends in December 2016 and any payload needs to be prepared and confirmed well in advance.

Do we have to pay for getting Wikipedia on board?

No. It’s a gift, no strings attached.

What happens if the rover of the PT Scientists is not able to fly to the Moon after all?

Let’s cross our fingers that everything works out as planned! But if something goes wrong, there may be many different reasons for that. It’s rocket science, afterall. Even after a successful rocket launch there will be a million things that might go wrong. It’s an adventure, so we can only hope for the best. The worst case scenario, though, is that the mission to the moon will not happen or fail. If we, as the global Wikipedia community, still manage to achieve our goal and prepare our time capsule, then it will be freely available in any case. Wikipedia content is freely licensed. Our work will be there for future adventurers to take into space. And maybe the Moon is just a start. As Karsten Becker of the Part-Time Scientists claims: “I always wanted to go to Mars. But the Moon is quite ok for a first start into space travel”.

What kind of data disk is it, technically? How long will the disk last on the moon before the solar wind destroys it?

The disc that will be sent to the moon will be made out of a special ceramic which will last in space for 1000 years. Unlike CD’s and Blue Rays, which are composed of plastic layers which unglue in space, the composition of the ceramic disc makes it much more resistant to the conditions beyond earth's atmosphere.