CBS News reports:
Scientists are pulling inspiration from Noah’s Ark in a new lunar proposal that they call a “global insurance policy.” They hope to send an ark to the moon, filled with 335 million sperm and egg samples, in case a catastrophe happens on Earth. Instead of two of every animal, the solar-powered moon ark would cryogenically store frozen seed, spore, sperm and egg samples from some 6.7 million Earth species. University of Arizona researcher Jekan Thanga and a group of his students proposed the concept in a paper presented during the IEEE Aerospace Conference this week…
Establishing the ark would involve sending the 6.7 million samples to the moon in multiple payloads, then storing them in a vault beneath the surface, where they would be safe. The idea is to store the ark within a network of lava tubes — about 200 of which were discovered beneath the moon’s surface in 2013… These tubes have remained untouched for three to four billion years, and scientists suggest they could provide much-needed protection from solar radiation, meteors or temperature changes on the surface. While the moon is not hospitable to humans, its harsh features “make it a great place to store samples that need to stay very cold and undisturbed for hundreds of years at a time,” they said.
Based on some “quick, back-of-the-envelope calculations,” Thanga said that transporting about 50 samples from each of 6.7 million species — totaling 335 million samples — would take about 250 rocket launches. That’s over six times more than it took to build the International Space Station, which required 40 rocket launches. “It’s not crazy big,” Thanga said. “We were a little bit surprised about that.”
The team’s proposal for the ark includes solar panels on the moon’s surface for electricity, elevator shafts down into the facility and Petri dishes housed in cryogenic preservation modules.
“What amazes me about projects like this is that they make me feel like we are getting closer to becoming a space civilization,” said the University of Arizona doctoral student leading the thermal analysis for the project, “and to a not-very-distant future where humankind will have bases on the moon and Mars.”
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