A team of researchers for the University of Arizona, United States, are proposing to store samples from 6.7 million Earth species on the moon as a means to guarantee the very survival of the planet’s biodiversity.
Lead by Jekan Thanga, researcher and professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, the ambitious project of a lunar ark is a “modern global insurance policy”. Seed, spore, sperm, and egg samples would be cryogenically frozen and stored on the moon, more precisely inside a network of some 200 lava tubes underneath the moon’s surface, sheltering the earthling cargo from solar radiation, micrometeorites, and surface temperature changes.
It would require 250 rocket launches to transport about 50 samples of each 6.7 million species. “It’s not crazy big,” says professor Thanga. By comparison, it took 40 rocket launches to build the International Space Station. The solar-powered ark would provide enough electricity to ensure that seeds and stem cells are cryopreserved at -180C and -196C respectively. “We are getting closer to becoming a space civilization, and to a not-very-distant future where humankind will have bases on the moon and Mars,” says Álvaro Díaz-Flores Caminero, doctoral student leading the thermal analysis for the project.