Earth is destined for disaster. This is a good insurance policy.
A team at the University of Arizona is proposing a concept that just might save us from extinction: a 21st-century version of Noah’s Ark on the moon. This ark wouldn’t contain two of every animal, but rather a repository of cryogenically frozen reproductive cells from 6.7 million species on our planet.
Consider it a global insurance policy, says Jekan Thanga, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Arizona’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, and the project’s mastermind. “As a human civilization, we’re in a fragile state,” he says. And such a shelter could come to fruition in the next three decades, he adds.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, an Earth-bound version of the lunar ark, opened in 2008 and currently contains more than 1 million crop seed samples, including staples like rice, wheat, and barley. It’s a somewhat appropriate analog for the lunar ark, but storing 6.7 million gametes, spores, and seeds isn’t the same on the moon as it is on Earth; there are the added challenges of microgravity, radiation levels roughly 200 times those on Earth, and wildly fluctuating temperatures.
With that in mind, Thanga’s team plans to install the lunar ark inside the moon’s extensive network of over 200 lava tubes just beneath its rocky surface. These tunnel-like structures are an ideal home because they insulate the facility from harsh conditions in much the same way that Svalbard’s storage facility, built deep inside a mountain, provides protection from the elements here on Earth.
The lunar ark sounds like a setting for a sci-fi novel, but Thanga says the possibility for such a shelter is very real—and it could come to fruition in the next three decades.
The team wants to first send a mission called SphereX (not to be confused with NASA’s Earth-orbiting SPHEREx mission) to explore the lunar lava tubes and collect lunar regolith (loose rock and dirt). A team of robots would deploy from a nearby lander, hop or fly into the tubes, and then form a relay, transferring images and data back to the lander. SphereX could teach researchers about the lava tubes’ layout, temperature, and geological makeup, to guide the design process for what would be the first structure built on the moon.
“What we envision is taking one of the existing pits—just the opening into the lava tube—and installing an elevator shaft,” Thanga says. From there, the elevator shafts would function as the entry and exit to a series of 32 cryopreservation modules. These upright cylinders, stacked in 16 rows, would preserve the reproductive cells. Robots or astronauts would be able to check samples in petri dishes in and out, “like a library,” Thanga says.
The storage modules would need cryogenic coolers to maintain the cells at the right temperatures: –292 degrees Fahrenheit for reproductive cells, and –320 degrees Fahrenheit for stem cells. And they would require a spinning apparatus that uses centrifugal force to keep the freezers in motion and prevent the cells from clumping together and building up cold spots. “The setup would be similar to a carousel shelving unit with music CDs packed into a circle,” Thanga says.
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Meanwhile, robots connected to a magnetic strip (to simulate Earth’s gravity) could remove the samples from their modules and transport them to an analysis lab, periodically checking to see if the seeds and sex cells are stable.
There’s evidence to suggest that the samples would remain viable despite the radiation and microgravity. In 2010, researchers at the Slovak Academy of Sciences found that flax plants could grow in radioactive soil near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant with minimal changes to the plant’s proteins. And this June, scientists in Japan produced 168 healthy mice offspring from sperm cells that had been in storage aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for nearly six years.
Thanga says that private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, which continue to drive down the cost of space launches, further bolster the likelihood of establishing a lunar ark. With some back-of-the-envelope calculations, Thanga estimates it would take 250 rocket launches to carry 50 specimens each of the 6.7 million species his team wants to preserve on the lunar ark. To put that into context, it took 40 launches to build out the ISS, the most expensive structure ever created.
Thanga’s team is currently planning an experiment that will send two cryopreservation pouches into space. Each will contain 500 samples from one animal species—50 individual samples are the bare minimum to prevent inbreeding in the short-term, while 500 individuals are required to prevent genetic drift. Ideally, the system will demonstrate successful cryopreservation for five to seven days in-orbit before returning to Earth to see if the samples survived.
Moon Construction 101
UNIVERSAL HISTORY ARCHIVE/ UNIVERSAL IMAGES GROUP VIA GETTY IMAGES
Building out the lunar ark will be an expensive endeavor, considering it costs about $700 to put a one-pound payload into Earth’s orbit, according to NASA. That’s why scientists want to avoid lugging cement into space; instead looking for ways to use moon rocks, says Sven G. Bilén, Ph.D., professor of engineering design, electrical engineering, and aerospace engineering at Pennsylvania State University.
“The regolith that’s on the moon is a very, very challenging regolith to work with, because it’s essentially these tiny little razor blades, they’re very jagged and sharp, they’ve never had a geological process to form them,” says Bilén, who is not involved in the lunar ark project. So, building this kind of complex would likely require an entire moon-rock mining operation, as well as a processing center where operators could melt the rocks down into a flowable cement.
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THEY are playing God. God, the Source will not allow any or this to happen because the Source did not order it, as in Noah’s Ark! Stupid criminal people doing things they should not do!