Tel Aviv-based company Torah on the Moon was hoping to deposit Torah scrolls on the moon as part of a cultual preservation project in case something should happen to Earth, the Washington Post reported this week.
The plan relies on being able to piggyback on the mission of the winner of the Google Lunar X Prize, which was offering $20 million to the first privately funded group to reach the moon by the end of 2015.
Eighteen teams around the world were competing, and Torah on the Moon would pay whichever company it deemed capable of carrying its capsule. The team had been hoping to send its first capsule up with a lander built by Israeli non-profit SpaceIL, a Lunar X competitor, but SpaceIL refused.
The religious nature of the cargo was bound to ruffle a few feathers.
“Such an object is supposed to be treated with extreme respect and care. I find it hard to believe that shooting it into space can fall under this heading,” Nicholas de Lange, a researcher in Jewish and Hebrew studies at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom was quoted as saying.
Last week, the engineering arm of the European Space Agency confirmed that it has been commissioned to test the space-hardiness of the capsule that would contain the Torah, the Post reported.
The capsule must be designed to protect the sacred text from the moon’s harsh radiation and temperature changes for at least 10,000 years. The moon lacks an atmosphere to trap heat, and the surface temperatures can rocket to a daytime high of about 253 degrees and plunge to 279 degrees below zero at night.
There were separate plans in the works to carry Hindu scriptures called the Veda and the I Ching, an ancient Chinese philosophical work, to the moon if the Torah mission was successful. The texts would join a Bible left on the moon in 1971 by Apollo 15 commander David Scott.