Forget Noah’s Ark! Scientists want to send sperm and egg samples from 6.7 million Earth species to the MOON as a ‘modern global insurance policy’
By M. Arbeiter
Sperm and egg samples from 6.7 million of Earth’s species should be sent to an ark built on the moon as a ‘modern global insurance policy’, scientists have proposed.
The lunar gene bank — which could also house seed and spore samples — is envisaged as being built under the lunar surface, in a hollow, cooled lava tube.
Specimens deposited in the ark would be kept refrigerated at cryogenic temperatures, with the facility powered by solar panels on the lunar surface.
This past Saturday, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers hosted its annual Aerospace Conference. (For COVID-19 safety, this year’s conference was all-digital.)
Aerospace and mechanical engineer Jekan Thanga hosted a session titled “Lunar Pits and Lava Tubes for a Modern Ark.” (You can listen to the recorded discussion here)
Thanga presented the facets of a study he co-authored with five other scientists; the most colorful detail in the talk involved shooting millions of specimens of reproductive material into space.
The idea of creating gene banks to restore lost biodiversity in the future is not new — more than a million seed samples are currently stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the island of Spitsbergen in the Artic Sea, for example.
According to his ‘back-of-an-envelope’ calculations, transporting some 50 samples for each of the 6.7 million target species would require 250 rocket launches.
For comparison, it took a total of 40 rocket launches to assemble the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit.
‘It’s not crazy big. We were a little bit surprised about that,’ Professor Thanga said.
So what is the likelihood of Thanga’s plan coming to fruition? Yet unknown, though he stressed in the lecture that the project wouldn’t cost much. Although I don’t think that was the first question on anybody’s mind.
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