The Apollo Goodwill Disc.

by Daniel Russ on July 23, 2012

The Apollo Goodwill Disc

The Apollo Goodwil Disc



I found this on Flickr and on Boingboing. The US flag that was planted on the moon was on a base that contained a silicon disc filled with information. A calling card as it were in case someone else ever came across us. It was designed to last thousands of years, perhaps after the flag itself surrendered to millenium of solar wind and micro particles swirling around the solar system. The idea was generated so late that only 19 days before the launch Sprague, a major engineering supplier to NASA struggled to get this finished.


“This silicon disc contains etched letters (scanned and reduced 200x) from the leaders of the world’s nations. This is one of the discs produced by Sprague and retained by a Sprague manager; a second resides in the Smithsonian, and a third rests on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility, deposited there by Buzz Aldrin.

(Does anyone know if other builds remain intact? A Sprague press release says that of the handful of discs made, one was given to President Nixon and one to President Johnson).

It is a tricky subject matter for photography. I wanted to capture the angle-dependendent iridescence of the semiconductor thin films. The overhead light source reflects off the leather seat cushion, revealing the shift from green to purple that occurs at oblique angles.

This comes from the early days of the semiconductor industry, when Apollo consumed 50% of global production, and wafers were just 2” wide (the ultimate disc was cropped around the 1.5” metallized ring and placed in a aluminum case).

The concept of using lithographic thin films to create a long-term alternative to microfiche was novel at the time, earning Sprague a patent (#3,607,347). I used those techniques to create a multi-colored Devo hat on a chip I designed at HP in 1988.

The story of the rushed creation of the disc is fascinating, as are the messages embedded in this interplanetary time capsule.

The concept started in June, 1969, and it was a politically charged project, in the midst of the Cold War and the Vietnam War. On June 27, NASA telephoned the state department, and got the unprecedented permission to contact the foreign chiefs of state to deposit a message on the moon. This was 19 days before launch. They were asked to compose and send typed and scribed letters to the U.S. (they came by telegram and mail).”

Source: The Apollo Goodwill Disc



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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott Schneeweis September 15, 2012 at 9:59 am

I have the second version of this disc (there were two variants produced – a second version was required to include the addition of communist messages).
Images and discussion of both Steve and my disc have been posted to:


Daniel Russ September 15, 2012 at 12:11 pm


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