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posted by martyb on Sunday March 14 2021, @05:15AM   Printer-friendly
from the ♫sowing-the-seeds-of-love♫ dept.

[Nearly 4 years ago, we covered flooding at the "doomsday" seed bank at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Fortunately, there was no harm to the seed samples stored there. For further background, consult the Wikipedia entry on the seed vault. --Ed]

Why We Need A ‘Moon Ark’ To Store Frozen Seeds, Sperm And Eggs From 6.7 Million Earth Species:

Species or planets[sic] could be wiped off the face of the Earth any minute—so we need a “Moon Ark” to safely store frozen eggs, sperm, seeds and other DNA matter from all 6.7 million Earth species.

That’s according to students and staff at the University of Arizona, who at the IEEE Aerospace Conference last weekend divulged details of an ambitious “modern global insurance policy” for our planet.

Their daring plan is to build a complex in the Moon’s lava tubes staffed by robots and fuelled by solar panels on the lunar surface.

[...] The incredible plan to build a lunar base that includes an underground ark goes something like this:

  • Ball-like SphereX robots—each weighing about 11lbs/5kg and able to fly and hop—to enter, explore and map the Moon’s recently discovered (in 2013) network of underground lava tubes, each about 328ft./100 meters in diameter.
  • Design, and then construct, underground ark in the lava tubes, with solar panels on the lunar surface and elevator shafts that access the facility.
  • Launch 250 rockets to the Moon, each taking 50 samples from each of 6.7 million species (it took about 40 to build the International Space Station).
  • Store the petri dishes of seeds in cryogenic preservation modules inside the lava tubes, which would shield the seeds from solar radiation, meteorites and temperature fluctuations.
  • The seeds would be kept at around -292ºF/180ºC, temperatures that would likely cold-weld together metal parts of the base. Cue “floating shelves” made from cryo-cooled superconductor materials that enable quantum levitation above a powerful magnet.
  • Staff the facility with robots that navigate through it above magnetic tracks. Robots that can operate under cryo-conditions don’t yet exist—though the proposers admit that new technologies will be needed to make the “Moon Ark” a reality.

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  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday March 14 2021, @07:22AM (1 child)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 14 2021, @07:22AM (#1123933) Journal

    [Nearly 4 years ago, we covered flooding at the "doomsday" seed bank at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Fortunately, there was no harm to the seed samples stored there. For further background, consult the Wikipedia entry on the seed vault. --Ed]

    Notice that a good portion of the article discusses the unreliability of Earth-side storage, in particular the above Norway site. The problem here is that in the absence of some experience, we'll just duplicate the problem on an even harder to fix location. The above site wasn't unreliable (and facing a possibly existential threat from permafrost thaw which first manifested a mere nine years into its operation) because it was on Earth. It was unreliable because it was poorly planned and designed. Repeating the poor planning and design on the Moon will just be a costly failure.

    My take is that the concept needs to be proven first on Earth first before creating white elephants on the Moon. Several of the technologies they want to deploy can be far more readily done on Earth first (the cryogenic storage, robotics, fancy magnetic levitation, whatever). My take is that they should prove in an Earth-side facility these technologies first before going anywhere near a lunar site. Hopefully, by the time the technologies are demonstrated and they have one (or hopefully more) such sites, then the infrastructure can exist to build these facilities elsewhere in the Solar System.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Immerman on Sunday March 14 2021, @04:24PM

    by Immerman (3985) on Sunday March 14 2021, @04:24PM (#1124065)

    Indeed. Before we even consider building such vaults on the moon, lets build them high in geologically stable mountains, well above flooding problems. Remote, desolate places that vaguely resemble the moon, rather than trying to "cheat" and use natural glacial cooling to simplify things. That was a great idea if you assumed the glaciers wouldn't melt - but it's become painfully obvious that there's no longer any place on Earth where it's safe to assume that.

    Heck, we've got tall mountains extending well above the ice in Antarctica - that could be perfect. An extremely cold mountainous desert high above any possible flood waters, and vastly cheaper to reach and develop than anywhere on the moon. Heck, we can have Starship hop a tunnel boring machine and other supplies over as a test run for establishing habitats on the Moon and Mars. Everybody wins.