If we are honest with ourselves, as a civilisation we are doomed. Maybe we are not yet on the slippery slope and maybe it's not anything we should be ashamed of, nevertheless we will one day be gone. Most likely we will only decline to a point where our technology is lost, but we have the capability to wipe ourselves out completely.

There is an upside to this and that is that life, human or otherwise, will continue. Let us assume that one day there will be creatures roaming the planet with intelligence levels similar to that of early man. Maybe there is a way that we can help them.

I propose that we use the moon to communicate with the future inhabitants of the planet.

Humans have always had a fascination with the moon and there is no reason to doubt that it won't attract the attention of others in the eons to come. I believe that it gives us the perfect opportunity to leave a message that will survive any terran calamity and, unaffected by atmosphere or tide it will exist for as long as is needed.

It is important to consider that Earth's future tennants may begin with very little in the way of tools or knowledge, so the initial message must be something visible to the naked eye that looks out of place enough to demand further investigation. I suggest a simple square drawn on the moon's surface and covering about a quarter of the area visible from Earth.

Now we have their attention we can wait for the new guys to develop a simple telescope. Through this they will be able to see the moon in greater detail, so we can afford to make the next sign a little more complex. I suggest a nice matchstick man. This drawing would need to take up less space than the square, as the observer will now be able to see it more clearly.

Assuming that this will be enough to start Earth's future inhabitants on a quest to learn more about the moon we can then supply them with more and more detailed messages. As their tools develop they will uncover more advanced messages, introducing them to our modern/ancient language and the basics of our science. Along the way we can include warnings from our own history and maybe allow the new ones a way to avoid our own shortcomings.

Once we have got this far in our preparation we could even consider writing on the other side of the moon. That would really give them something delightful to uncover when they reached out far enough.

The beauty of this idea is that not only would it be a super cool thing to leave behind, but it is technically feasible with technology we could create today. Imagine it, big drawings could be done from Earth, simply by nuking the surface. It may not be perfectly neat, but at the least it would be good enough to draw our first symbols. Later we could send robots that rove around the lunar surface cutting our messages into it. We could even prepare for the very distant future by duplicating areas so that meteor impacts are unlikely to wipe out any message entirely.

As a final thought, if we had the inclination, we could build them a library on the surface itself.

Hmmm, The sun is about four billion years old. It took evolution about one billion years to get to where is is today.

Intelligence is not necessary to be at the top of the food chain, example: Dinosaurs. Let us say the dominant species has a one in ten chance of being intelligent (overestimate)

In about eight to ten billion years the sun will swallow the earth, by which time the moon will have long escaped the gravity of the earth (it recedes at about an inch a year, but of course as time goes by this rate will increase)

All in all, if we wipe ourselves out then no one will arise to see what we have left behind(probably)

To address FlameBoy's original writeup, there is already writing on the moon, and extensive archeological evidence of the two major wings of late 20th-century civilization, the Soviet Union and the United States of America.

If humankind does destroy itself, and a subsequent post-cataclysm advanced human civilization or other intelligent race arises (rats are pretty damn smart, and if we wipe ourselves out, it may only take a few million years for them to achieve sentience) and reach for the moon. (As any curious intelligent species must.) They will have incontrovertible proof that a previous civilization existed, as there is a wealth of information up there.

The Soviets sent the following “impact” missions:

  • Luna 2 - Sep 12, 1959
  • Luna 3 - Oct 4, 1959
  • Luna 5 - May 9, 1965
  • Luna 7 - Oct 4, 1965

These would only provide interesting crash-site craters and fragments, but of undoubtedly intelligent origin. They also sent the following landers:

  • Luna 9 - Jan 31, 1966
  • Luna 13 - Dec 21, 1966
  • Luna 16 - Sep 12, 1970 – this mission had an unmanned sample-taking robotic stage that returned to earth.
  • Luna 17 - Nov 10, 1970 – this mission contained an unmanned rover.
  • Luna 20 - Feb 14, 1972 – also a sample return mission.
  • Luna 21 - Jan 8, 1973 – another unmanned rover mission.
  • Luna 23 - Oct 28, 1974
  • Luna 24 - Aug 14, 1976 – sample return.

Any intelligent species finding these bits of Soviet jetsam would be able to determine quite a bit about their makers, and may even be able to decipher their language from the technical markings on pipes, wiring, and such.

The Americans sent many missions, as well. The major difference here is that 6 of the missions were manned:

  • Apollo 11 - Jul 16, 1969 – the first manned lunar landing.
  • Apollo 12 - Nov 14, 1969
  • Apollo 14 - Jan 31, 1971
  • Apollo 15 - Jul 26, 1971 - first mission to use a manned rover.
  • Apollo 16 - Apr 16, 1972
  • Apollo 17 - Dec 7, 1972

These missions provided any future archeologists with a wealth of ergonomic information from the lunar rover seats and control positions, the various tools (including many Hasselblad cameras) and instruments, and the astronaut’s jettisoned spacesuits and backpacks (the lunar missions threw away everything they didn’t need to return, to increase the weight of rocks they could bring back.)

There were also plaques attached to each lander. They not only included the signatures of the mission astronauts and the president (ironically, Richard Nixon is currently the only president guaranteed a near-immortal memorial in this fashion), but a representation of the earth, which would provide geographical information that may allow any researchers to make a rough estimate of the era the landings occurred, if they can plot the continental drift accurately.

Depending upon the technical achievements and paradigms of this putative future race, they may or may not learn new things from our leavings. However, they will learn they were not the first race to gaze at the moon and wonder.

A list of lunar missions can be found at:

This is also the case on Mars. The difference there is that Mars has weather, and eventually the things we left there could be buried and/or eroded.

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