Earth’s increasingly precarious state of things has always worried scientists. And ever since space exploration began, colonizing other bodies in the solar system has been the underlying vision for humans to find permanent settlements in space. The science community’s perpetual fixation on building habitats on other planets of our solar system and our natural satellite, the Moon, have been in the works for a long time. While the moon among other space bodies may not be an ideal place for a permanent residence, it could serve as a storage unit for our invaluable resources.
According to a New York Post report, scientists have proposed to establish a lunar gene bank that could house a repository of reproductive cells, sperm and egg samples from 6.7 million of Earth’s species, including humans. The proposed bank or ‘ark’ to be built on the moon is seen as a ‘modern global insurance policy.’
At a recent aerospace conference, Mechanical and aerospace engineer Jekan Thanga, whose team at the University of Arizona submitted their report, proposed setting up a lunar gene bank by shipping millions of sperm and egg samples for safekeeping. Thanga, speaking at the annual Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Aerospace Conference on Saturday, said that as the planet’s growing instability, an ‘Earth-based repository’ would leave the collected specimen vulnerable. He wants to jumpstart a cross planetary of sorts by starting a human seed vault on the moon at the earliest.
According to his presentation, the so-called ‘ark would cryogenically preserve various species in the event of a global disaster. “We can still save them until the tech advances to then reintroduce these species — in other words, save them for another day,” he said.
The study he co-authored with five other scientists would store the reproductive cells in recently discovered lunar ‘pits’ from which scientists believe lava once flowed billions of years ago. And they think these pits also are the perfect size for cell storage, as they go down 80 to 100 meters underground and ‘provide readymade shelter from the surface of the moon,’ which endures ‘major temperature swings,’ as well as threats from meteorites and space radiation.
In his presentation, he also said that many plants and animals were ‘seriously endangered’ and cited the eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Toba 75,000 years ago, which caused a 1,000-year cooling period. He connected the same to present-day parallel to ‘human activity and other factors that we fully don’t understand.’
However, Thanga’s concept of creating gene banks is not new, it is already being employed at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic Sea that houses plant seeds among others at the facility. The unique seed vault currently houses close to 992,000 samples – each containing an average of 500 seeds.