M-Barc is about science! True, our core mission is to preserve our stories for others to experience in 100 years, but why not go the extra mile and do some science along the way? It isn’t often that scientists have the opportunity to stage experiments in low-Earth orbit, let alone for 100 years. M-Barc presents a unique opportunity for scientific endeavors, and the DNA sub-team is taking full advantage of that opportunity. They’re going to plant “the University of Michigan Statement” inside DNA, and see if it survives the 100-year journey.
Storing information in DNA, while amazing, is nothing new. What is new, or rather unknown, is the longevity of this technique. Exactly how long can DNA hold information accurately? Does the harsh environment of outer space effect that timespan? Given the substantial lifespan of solid state drives, you might wonder why it would matter how long binary information can be preserved in DNA. The power is in the capacity. DNA can hold around 700 terabytes in single gram—that’s nearly 11,000 iPhones worth of storage. Efficiency like that leaves SSD’s in the dust, so it’s worth understanding the limitations of the DNA. If we ever wanted to send physical packages of information out into the cosmos, like we did on the Voyager spacecraft, it would be nice to know if the DNA technique would work, since we can fit a lot more information by that method than on vinyl (what we used on Voyager), or even on solid state drives.
It would be unfortunate to write a message to future generations, future space travelers, or even another species, only for our data to decay along the way. The DNA sub-team will take us a step-closer to understanding the potential of DNA information storage.