Scientists propose creating a Noah's Ark on the Moon, which stores millions of sperm and egg samples, to serve as a "new global insurance policy."
The lunar gene bank, which may also hold seed and spore samples, is planned to be installed in a circular, cooled lava tube underneath the lunar surface.
Specimens would be kept frozen in the ark, which would be driven by solar panels on the lunar surface. Experts said these vaults would be "doomsday-proof."
The notion of building gene banks to preserve lost habitats in the future is not new. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic Sea, for example, houses over a million seed samples.
Why Are Scientists Building This 'Modern Global Insurance Policy?'
According to a team of researchers led by Jekan Thanga, a mechanical engineer at the University of Arizona, building such facilities on Earth exposes them to the risk of accidental failure.
For example, climate change could lead multiple animals to extinction in the future. According to the team, the Svalbard vault would be submerged under the seas due to rising sea levels caused by global warming.
The researchers said per DailyMail that the Moon could be a better place in the case of a planetary crisis, such as climate change, a supervolcano, or a meteor strike. They said this modern global insurance policy would protect Earth's genetic diversity from catastrophe.
How The Modern Lunar's Ark Would Look Like
According to the team, the lunar ark could be constructed within lava tubes found recently just underneath the Moon's atmosphere. Elevator shafts will stretch down into the facility, freezing seeds to about -180 °C (-292 °F) and animal cells to -196 °C (-321 °F) in cryogenic preservation modules. Solar panels on the surface will fuel the whole rig.
Holding the modules this cold has an additional advantage. A mechanism known as quantum levitation may occur at cryogenic temperatures, in which a superconductor substance floats over a strong magnet. The two are inextricably connected at a predetermined distance, which may be useful for suspending shelves of samples in mid-air or enabling robots to zoom around on magnetic tracks.
"It's like they're locked in place by strings, but invisible strings," Thaga said. "When you get to cryogenic temperatures, strange things happen. Some of it just looks like magic but is based on tried and laboratory-tested physics principles at the edge of our understanding."
Won't It Be Challenging To Bring The Ark To The Moon?
One of the most challenging aspects of doing something on the Moon is bringing the supplies there - rocket rockets have a weight limit. The mission of this magnitude is weighty. However, the group believes that it is not insurmountable. According to the researchers, carrying 50 samples from around 6.7 million organisms on Earth will require about 250 launches.
The lunar ark is an interesting idea, but it is only just that at this stage. The scientists claim they want to learn more about how the ark might be designed and run and how variables like reduced gravity could impact the samples.
The researchers presented their lunar ark concept last weekend at the IEEE Aerospace Conference. Below is a link to the video presentation.
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