The Ultimate Time Capsule
A canister no bigger than a school lunch box is bound for the future. It will journey into outer space preserving the thoughts, hopes, and dreams of students across the nation as depicted in their essays, drawings, poetry, and musical scores.
The capsule--dubbed SpaceArc (short for "space archives")--is a project of the Rochester (N.Y.)Museum & Science Center and of the Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission.
Organizers say the capsule may carry as many as 5 million messages into Earth orbit.
Students in grades K-12 are being encouraged to record their works along with a photograph of themselves on "Space Archival forms," which the Educational Testing Service will then electronically scan and digitally store on optical disks to be carried in the capsule.
A private aerospace firm is scheduled to launch the project in 1992 or mid-1993.
The project's organizers are also inviting classes to design the capsule's exterior. The design, in a circle 12 inches in diameter, may include words and images in crayon, felt-tip marker, collage, computer graphics, or any other medium. Each entry must include a one-page explanation of the design's symbolism and message and must be submitted along with the class's completed archival forms by March 15.
To date, more than 30,000 students at all grade levels have taken part in the program, said Cheryl Loch of the museum. "One teacher used the form in conjunction with a children's theater to see what the children's reactions were about the first Moon landing," she said.
Ms. Loch noted that Voice of America has announced the contest in its broadcasts to a number of countries, including Nigeria, the Philippines, and the Soviet Ukraine, the last of which has some school- children participating in the project.
A second SpaceArc capsule is scheduled to ride on board the World Space Foundation's solar sail as it travels to the Moon and Mars before attaining a solar orbit.
Additional information about SpaceArc is available from the Rochester Museum & Science Center, 657 East Ave., Box 1480, Rochester, N.Y. 14603-1480; telephone (716)271-4320. --V. L.J.