by Suda Syrus     

Various forms of immortality are available at the consumer level.

Marble monuments, websites, and cryogenics are the most popular. But Forever Bound, Inc. offers a new, space-age kind of immortality that's something like a cross between Woody Allen's SLEEPER and "Battlestar Galactica." For fifty bucks (ninety for the family plan), their bio-technology initiative "Sign of Life" will launch your DNA, or a sample of it, into space. Like most things, it starts with a website, due in September.

Forever Bound offers no guarantees, but is serious about what it proposes. "We want dignity here, not P.T. Barnum," said Bill Boland, the entrepreneur behind the idea. He has assembled a team of consultants whose backgrounds range from NASA, business, the military, advertising, and biology. Forever Bound's resident biologist, Dr. Herman Vandenburg, of Brown University, will probably request a buccal sample: scrape the inside of your mouth with a tongue depressor and Fedex it to their headquarters in New York. Vandenburg believes he can come up with a way to keep the DNA samples alive for approximately 10,000 years, roughly the amount of time it will take the samples to reach their destination or to bump into some other life form.

"We want dignity here, not P.T. Barnum..."

The DNA will be launched in an as yet unbuilt type of starship called a solar sail. Solar sails are extremely lightweight craft which use photonic propulsion. Boland and his team are convinced that they have access to all the elements that can make the SOL Initiative happen. They want to demonstrate what can be done in space that has been previously ignored and untapped by sluggish government-contracted aerospace companies. Boland believes, along with a growing and outspoken "space movement," that it is up to the hardy entrepreneur to exploit the potential that space has to offer. "If NASA can't do the big stuff anymore, then who's going to do it?" Boland asks. "It's not up to the visionaries anymore." It's apparently up to the entrepreneurs, who, left to their own devices in a free environment unfettered by government and its ilk, can reach unheard-of heights (literally) and feel better fast.

It's like making a wish and throwing a penny into a fountain. Except it will take around 10,000 years for the penny to hit bottom, if it hits bottom at all.

"If NASA can't do the big stuff anymore,
then who's going to do it?"

Who or what will discover the source of your morning breath out there in the darkness? Is this simply a memorial for an audience that doesn't exist? "This isn't about ego, it's about excitement," Boland added. As for the 2001 date, he believes that around this time a feeling of optimism will occur, "not geeky or naive, but substantial, and mankind-wide." Forever Bound would like to encourage or engender this optimism. Oh yeah, and make money too, for, in addition to collecting used tongue depressors and building spaceships, Forever Bound intends to solicit corporate sponsorship and advertising for the launch event.

So what if you aren't around for your wish to come true? Do you ever remember your wishes Anyway?   </end>


More information on solar sails:

The Physics of Solar Sailing
Photonic Propulsion

Design and Illustration by Anselm Dastner
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