Scientists want to store animal sperm and egg samples on the MOON as ‘insurance policy’


By: - Climate DepotMarch 11, 2021 12:30 PM

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-9345693/Ark-Scientists-want-store-animal-sperm-egg-samples-MOON.html

To protect Earth’s species diversity, we presently store genetic material in vaults
Material including seeds and spores could be used to recover lost species
But gene banks on Earth are vulnerable to the catastrophes they insure against
US experts propose to more safely store specimens in lava tubes on the moon
The deposits would be cryogenically frozen and tended by levitating robots
By IAN RANDALL FOR MAILONLINE

PUBLISHED: 07:22 EST, 10 March 2021 | UPDATED: 12:16 EST, 10 March 2021 e-mail

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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.

The ark would preserve Earth’s genetic diversity in the event of a global catastrophe, such as might be caused by climate change, a supervolcano or an asteroid impact.

Sperm (left) and egg samples from 6.7 million of Earth’s species should be sent to an ark built on the moon (right) as a ‘modern global insurance policy’, scientists have proposed +5
Sperm (left) and egg samples from 6.7 million of Earth’s species should be sent to an ark built on the moon (right) 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. Pictured: a cross-section of how the lunar ark might look buried beneath the surface of the moon in a hollow lava tube
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. Pictured: a cross-section of how the lunar ark might look buried beneath the surface of the moon in a hollow lava tube

HOW WOULD YOU GET 6.7MILLION SPECIES TO THE MOON?
Building a genetic storage facility on the moon would be a significant undertaking — but one that Professor Thanga says would be possible.

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.

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‘Earth is naturally a volatile environment,’ said study author and mechanical engineer Jekan Thanga of the University of Arizona.

‘As humans, we had a close call about 75,000 years ago with the Toba supervolcano eruption, which caused a 1,000-year cooling period and, according to some, aligns with an estimated drop in human diversity,’ he added.

‘Because human civilization has such a large footprint, if it were to collapse, that could have a negative cascading effect on the rest of the planet.’

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.

However, Professor Thanga and colleagues explained that locating such facilities on Earth leaves them also vulnerable to accidental loss.