Since 2007, amateur (and less amateur) astronauts have been vying to land a privately funded spacecraft on the moon, in response to a challenge from Google and the nonprofit XPrize, which incentivizes “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.” In this case, twenty million dollars goes to the first team to traverse the two hundred and thirty-eight thousand miles there and back, and to collect high-definition images and video en route. A team from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute secured $1.75 million in seed money from Google, and is planning to launch its rover later this year.
One of the cultural relics included on the MoonArk is a song: a three-minute-and-twenty-second recording of a nightingale, made in Bremen, Germany, in 1913, by Karl Reich. Reich was something of a savant, a shopkeeper who bred and recorded canaries and other birds. He reportedly trained one nightingale to hop inside the horn of a gramophone so that he could collect a higher-fidelity recording of its voice. In the nineteen-tens, the Victor Talking Machine Company began commercially issuing Reich’s birdsongs on 78-r.p.m. records—two-sided shellac discs that contained about three minutes of music per side—across Europe, Russia, the United States, and Australia.