What can we leave of ourselves after we're gone? In the case of the KEO Project, we can leave a few words about ourselves; who we are (or were) and our parents, spouses and children. Then we can add a brief synopsis of the accomplishments of our lives. We can also give our advice to our descendants. Those words, up to 6,000 characters (roughly 4 pages of text), can even be preserved for 50,000 years for future generations to read. However, you need to act now.
The KEO Project hopes to leave a human legacy that outlasts digital media, books, and possibly even human society itself. In 2006, the European Space Agency will launch the KEO satellite into orbit. After remaining aloft for 50,000 years, the satellite will return to Earth, if it hasn't been destroyed by collisions with space junk. The purpose of the KEO Project is to "tell the people of tomorrow who the men, women and children of today are."
Quoting form the project's Web site:
The faraway children, of your children… of their great grand children… who you would never have known… would have loved to know you. What would you like to tell them?
End of year 2006, the satellite KEO will be launched into space. Some 50,000 years later it will return to earth, intact, to offer our faraway, future, distant great grandchildren, a collection of our messages destined for them.
The same satellite will also contain a "contemporary Library of Alexandria." A "Committee of Learned People" representing multicultural, multidisciplinary and multidimensional backgrounds has the responsibility of classifying all information, geopolitical and cultural (translating our habits and customs) of the people of the 21st century for the benefit of our future descendants. Their results will also be added to the stored information.
The information on board the KEO Project satellite will be stored on glass-tempered DVD disks. Long-term digital storage and backup of information on digital media requires an active, energy-intensive process-the best hard drives last only 100 years. And even books eventually crumble to dust. The oldest surviving printed book, a Buddhist holy text called the Diamond Sutra, bears the date 868 AD. However, hieroglyphic engravings at Abydos, dated to 3,150 BC can still be read.
KEO's cargo of DVDs will have enough capacity for short messages to the future from each of Earth's 6 billion inhabitants to be engraved onto their surfaces. (It will also include instructions for building a DVD reader.) You can leave your 6,000-character summa for free at KEO.org, but hurry up, because message collection stops at the end of 2004, to leave adequate time for the engraving process.
Project KEO is free of charge for all participants. You can read more about this project at the Project KEO's web site: http://www.keo.org. You can also enter your message to your future descendants at the same web site. The FAQ (Frequently-Asked Questions) page is particularly interesting. Look at http://www.keo.org/uk/pages/faq.html.