Guest Post: THE LUNAR CODEX by Samuel Peralta, Ph.D.

The following post was written and provided to Astrobotic by Samuel Peralta, Ph.D. and Curator of The Lunar Codex – participants of the DHL MoonBox program, aboard Astrobotic’s Peregrine Mission One

It isn’t all over; everything has not been invented; the human adventure is just beginning. —Gene Rodenberry

I dreamed of going to the Moon, and one day, it was possible. I’m sharing that dream with some of the artists, authors, musicians, and filmmakers whose work I love. Together we are the Artists on the Moon, and the Lunar Codex is the collection of works in our lunar time capsules.

When Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lunar Lander lifts off from its launch pad, powered by a United Launch Alliance rocket, it will carry with it the dreams of hundreds from Earth, including the work of over 1200 creative artists (and one A.I.) in three DHL MoonBox time capsules: The Peregrine Collection.

I was fourteen for my first launch. The first rocket I’d ever fly, the Antares, stood over a foot tall, red fins swept back at its base like red fletching on an arrow. I’d selected a C6-5, a single-stage solid-fuel engine: its propellant, delay charge, and ejection charge were like that of a conventional first-flight A8-3, but more powerful. With luck, this baby would lift-off to over 1000 feet.

The centerpieces of our payload on Peregrine are the 21 volumes of my own Future Chronicles anthologies and 15 PoetsArtists art magazines and exhibition catalogs, one of which I helmed as guest curator. Each individual volume provided scores of curated contemporary art and short stories for the time capsule. Together with other art books, anthologies, novels, music, and screenplays – including the short film Real Artists, which won an Emmy® Award in 2019 – we’ve digitized literally thousands of art and fiction pieces for the trip to the Moon.

The Peregrine Collection is the first of three collections of contemporary art, writing, music, and film in what makes up what we call collectively the Lunar Codex, a project to launch thousands of creative works to the Moon as a message-in-a-bottle to another world, to the future.

It’s different from previous time capsule projects launched into space because it doesn’t focus on classics: plays from Shakespeare, or art from Andy Warhol, or verses from the Bible. Instead, it includes a slice of contemporary arts and literature from all over the world – accomplished work from people whose work reflects some of our world today.

Next to Star Trek, Ray Bradbury, and Isaac Asimov, I looked up to Estes Rockets. They fabricated a huge variety of rocket kits, ranging from small first-flight models to ones which could house a camera, taking photographs during flight and descent. With cardboard fuselages and nose cones and fins of balsa wood, Estes rockets were simple in design, calculated to lighten the load under launch, addressing the same issues faced by the engineers of today’s launches.

I’d intended originally to only put something of mine on the Moon, a poetic impulse on a personal MoonBox. But the project grew. I was invited to contribute my own books to a similar project in early 2021, and as the editor of a whole series of anthologies, I brought on board stories from over 400 authors.

The response from the 400+ authors was amazing. For some, even lifechanging. After ages in a seemingly never-ending pandemic, being selected for the journey gave the authors a glimmer to look forward to. The project promised to transform the Moon into something more than just our neighbor and fulfill lifelong dreams many of them had to travel to the stars.

Inspired, I purchased more rideshare space on yet another MoonBox on the Peregrine lander, and added work from about 800 artists, sculptors, and filmmakers

All in all, 1200 creative artists have stowed away with me on Astrobotic’s premier launch.

The first Space Shuttle orbiter was going to be named the Constitution; it was changed, after an intense writing campaign by fans of the television series to Enterprise. The Enterprise was flight tested atop a modified Boeing 747 aircraft and made its first free flight at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, beginning the cycle that would see humans begin to first use spacecraft that did not have to be discarded after a single flight. The beginnings, as it were, of a star fleet.

                After the Peregrine Collection was forwarded to Astrobotic to onboard onto the Peregrine Lander, I kept on going.

I reached out personally to other artists whose work I appreciated, as well as to institutions I had some connection with, such as the Bennett Prize, the California Art Club, and the Art Renewal Center, which had an association with Sotheby’s, and so on. These contacts resulted in The Nova Collection – a nickel-etched catalogue of over 400 more artworks, poetry, and short stories – and I found another rideshare I could use to launch them via another lander company in 2024. I did it yet again for another rideshare, using an advanced materials matrix as an archive medium, resulting in The Serenity Collection.

                And after I’d finished that, I’ve come back to Astrobotic and DHL MoonBox.

We’ve reserved MoonBox 2.0 to carry a fourth lunar time capsule on a future Astrobotic mission to the lunar south pole – The Polaris Collection.

The Polaris Collection honors Astrobotic’s prototype rover Polaris, and the MoonBox 2.0 on the lander will contain a hybrid digital/analog catalogue of up to 1 Terabytes of contemporary art, writing, music, and film.

How many more artists will the Lunar Codex carry in Polaris? At this moment, over 30,000 creative artists will be part of the project, from 162 countries and territories all over the globe

The year that the shuttle Enterprise first flew was my Antares year. I stood in a field, electrical control line uncoiling to the launch pad, where a guide-rod held my model rocket to face the sky.  When I threw the switch, the current would race through the line, across the micro-igniter clips to the ignition wire, and the engine would fire with an impulse of 10 Newton-seconds, ramping to a maximum 15 Newtons of thrust in 0.2 seconds, over a total burn-time of 1.6 seconds.

While there has been art placed on the Moon before, to the best of our knowledge, the Lunar Codex is the first project to attempt to put the works of women artists on the Moon. It represents the first figurative realist art on the lunar surface. And it is the most expansive and diverse collections of contemporary art launched to the Moon, in terms of gender, styles, and nationalities – including work from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, India, the Philippines, Australia, and more.

Flying into space is in vogue these days. But, other than myself, not a single artist, writer, filmmaker, or musician has had to pay for this ticket to the Moon – the Lunar Codex takes care of everything, digitization, cataloguing, and time capsule costs. Being selected for the ride is a different experience, exhilarating, and even – for many artists – life-affirming.

We won’t ourselves be riding through the atmosphere or past the Karman line in a space plane or re-usable rocket, but the very best part of us – our souls, captured in our art – will be ride-sharing with Astrobotic and friends, in that gentle arc from Earth to the Moon.

Countdown. Hold your breath.

Our hope is that future travelers who find these time capsules will discover some of the richness of our world today – because the Lunar Codex speaks to the idea that, despite wars and pandemics and climate upheaval, humankind found time to dream, time to create art.

This is our message to the future. This is our message to the universe.



(Photograph credit: Antosia Fiedur)

Physicist and storyteller, Samuel Peralta’s fiction has hit the major bestseller lists and his poetry has won awards worldwide. Acclaimed for curating popular short story anthologies and art exhibits, he is also a producer of several prize-winning independent films.