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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: 3, Interesting) by rleigh on Sunday March 14 2021, @06:19PM (2 children)

    by rleigh (4887) on Sunday March 14 2021, @06:19PM (#1124116) Homepage

    The premise here and in the parent post is wrong.

    Our current fossil fuel resources were laid down in the Carboniferous period. That was a one-off event. It will never be repeated, at least on a global scale. Too many species have evolved to digest lignin, from bacteria to fungi. The lifetime of a fallen tree is just a few years, and if you chop it up into chips, just a few months, or weeks in hotter climates. It will be completely recycled before it can be preserved. The other factor is that during the Carboniferous period, animal and insect life as we know it had not evolved yet. There was nothing to disturb fallen trees. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of animal species crawling and rooting around. On a geological timescale, it's improbable that a tree could lain undisturbed even if it didn't get broken down by fungi or bacteria. The only way it could be fossilised is if it falls into a bog, and there aren't enough bogs around to make a difference. It would be geologically insignificant. The Carboniferous period can't be repeated again due to the vast amount of rapid evolution that followed it. Back then, entire temperate landmasses were filled with trees, and nothing else! Today, animal life shapes every aspect of the landscape we inhabit.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 15 2021, @12:33AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 15 2021, @12:33AM (#1124213)

    Today we are laying down a wonderful layer of plastics, which nothing has yet evolved to digest, so there is still a chance.

    • (Score: 2) by rleigh on Monday March 15 2021, @07:46AM

      by rleigh (4887) on Monday March 15 2021, @07:46AM (#1124344) Homepage

      This isn't entirely correct. We have already found bacterial and fungal species in rubbish tips on the surface of plastic bags and such with the capability of breaking down the pastic. They either evolved to do this, or they were already around in the environment and this is a niche they can thrive in. Probably the latter, perhaps with a few mutations on top to improve their ability to work with specific plastics.

      Life evolves to exploit energy sources. Just as it evolved to exploit the vast stored energy reserves of lignin, it will also evolve to digest various types of plastic. Right now, that process is very slow and inefficient, but it's inevitable that will improve over time. The main problem with plastic is its hydrophobicity which makes it more difficult for water-based enzymes to interact with, and some are worse than others. The process might be very slow on a human timescale. But on a geological timescale, I suspect most plastic will vanish relatively quickly.