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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: 2) by Socrastotle on Monday March 15 2021, @05:25AM (4 children)

    by Socrastotle (13446) on Monday March 15 2021, @05:25AM (#1124307) Journal

    If it was not clear, politics and $$$ are equivalent in my comments. You get funding when things are politically convenient, you don't when they're not. When you go back to the past, Apollo was not the finish line. NASA had envisioned the moon landing as but the first small step in a much bigger vision which you can read about here []. A large space station (bigger than the ISS) was to be built by 1975 in large part to play a role in the development of an exponentially larger station following immediately thereafter. They then aimed to develop a lunar base by 1976 with their eyes on the real prize - Mars. Human missions of which were to be started by the 1980s, with colonization following in relatively short order.

    After the success of Apollo (in 1969) Wernher von Braun, chief architect of the Apollo program, was assigned as the deputy head of NASA. Within 2 years he'd resign amid the government cancelling pretty much everything (which is what I was referencing in the above post). The only thing that didn't get axed was the "Space Transportation System", which would eventually be renamed the Space Shuttle. And the only reason it survived was likely due to its direct utility as a tool for the military. So our grand plans of today are nothing new, nor is cancelling them. Most recently would probably be the Constellation Program. [] Again the idea was to get to the moon, no later than 2020 - with our eyes on Mars, once again, as the real prize.

    Cancelling the Constellation program was one of Obama's early acts as president. He then created the SLS program, which has very little to do with space and everything to do with pork and kickbacks. SLS, the Space Launch System, is frequently and probably more accurately referred to as the Senate Launch System. Kennedy gave his 'to the moon' speech in late 1962, when we had never achieved anything remotely like it. Less than 7 years later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would walk on the moon. In a few months we'll be coming up on the SLS being more than a decade old. Its grandest and most recent "achievement" was failing a static fire, with the engine's burning out 67 seconds into a planned 485 second burn. And the Artemis program is based on the SLS...

    To see what the focus of Artemis really is, just look at how the program is always introduced. And it is "We're going to put the first person with a vagina on the moon!" The reason I frame it in such a derogatory way is because that has absolutely nothing to do with what we really need to be doing. What people have between their legs is completely irrelevant. The reason it's the focus is because identity politics is en vogue, yet space is not. And so the result is extremely predictable. Once the en vogue focus is done with (human on the moon in the past, vagina on the moon in present), you're going to have a 'mission accomplished - axe everything' moment.

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  • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Monday March 15 2021, @01:38PM (3 children)

    by Immerman (3985) on Monday March 15 2021, @01:38PM (#1124403)

    I was thinking more economics that politics. "Poltically convenient" runs into a brick wall when you start talking about spending a significant portion of the GDP on a project that's unlikely to every offer a return on investment. Apollo was outrageously expensive. A moon base would have made that look like a checkout-line impulse buy. And at the time we didn't have the technology to do anything useful there.

    How things are phrased for the public is pretty much always just window dressing for any political project, they say whatever they feel will get the people behind it. Remember WMDs in Iraq? Or how the Keystone pipeline was supposed to lower gas prices for Americans? Both were always bald-faced lies, and everybody actually paying attention knew it. But, they cast the projects in a favorable light for the peasants.

    As for women - actually I disagree. We've been short-changing women in our society basically forever, and having them take a prominent role in a high-profile project like this is important optics to keep swinging the cultural needle towards actual equality. It only has a little to do with the space program (women are actually considerably better suited to a wide range of space projects than men - lower mass, greater radiation resistance, etc.), but it's practically the only return on investment we're likely to see for decades.

    • (Score: 2) by Socrastotle on Monday March 15 2021, @06:39PM (2 children)

      by Socrastotle (13446) on Monday March 15 2021, @06:39PM (#1124524) Journal

      We *did* have the technology to do plenty of useful things on the moon. The Apollo program was just the starting point. There's nothing magical about the moon. All you need is supplies and people - and you're good to go. And no, the Apollo program was relatively cheap. The entire program, all 12 years of it, cost around $25.4 billion at the time - about $120 billion inflation adjusted to today. That's $10 billion a year. NASA's current budget is $23.3 billion a year. And the vast majority of that cost was in getting up to the point of being able to launch people to the moon successfully, not the cost of that actual endeavor. The actual cost of Apollo 11 (the moon landing) itself was a total of $355 million, about $1.7 billion inflation adjusted. All of the values I've given here are from the 1974 NASA Authorization Hearings. [] So the numbers are straight from NASA themselves.


      As for the women thing. I really wish America could move beyond this stuff and start looking to places like Norway. There was an extremely interesting documentary in Norway called Hjernevask []. That page has links to all the videos, or you can also watch them here []. On, you need to click on the CC button to turn on the English subtitles, which are of excellent quality.

      Norway was and remains the most gender equal nation in the world. Yet there remain "inequalities". For instance even in Norway the vast majority of nurses are female and the vast majority of engineers are male. There have been major efforts, lasting years, to try to change this but the story is always the same. When you have these programs running you get a very mild change in the balance, and when the programs finish - everything resorts, almost immediately, back to the equilibrium it had before. Why? Well of course you're going to say it's all environmental of some flavor or another.

      What do the experts think? Well that was the point of the documentary. He simply sought out leading experts and researchers in the field and asked them for their views on what the causes for these differences are. And then asked them for their opinion on various studies they'd all be familiar with. For instance one really interesting fact is that even in infancy major gender biases emerge - given a choice, boys will prefer to play with a truck, while girls will be more interested in dolls. Why did they think this was?

      And this wasn't a Michael Moore 'gotcha' style documentary. Everything has appropriate context, there was never any sort of confrontational behavior or whatever, nor was it him citing obscure studies and trying to make the researchers look ignorant. They all knew what he was talking about. But the problem is that when confronted with data that didn't just assume that everything was environmental, the researchers really were left to resort to circular logic and assuming their own hypotheses - which is rather the opposite of what science is about.

      The documentary, which aired on public TV in Norway, not only started a major discussion on the topic but ultimately led to Norway cancelling all public funding for gender studies programs. A state that remains true to this very day, as does their being the most gender equal nation in the world. Hjernevask, in Norwegian, translates to 'to brainwash.'


      I think the goal we should always strive for, in everything, is color and gender blindness. Do so much as you can to ensure equal opportunity, but let people do what they want and judge people without bias with respect their sex, race, or other characteristic beyond 'how good is this person at this task.' Pick the best people for the job, and only the best people for the job, and society wins. I see no reason to elevate any group over another for any reason, ever. Because when you do this you are trying to solve a perceived problem, which may or may not exist, by engaging in the exact behavior (unfair prejudice) you are trying to defeat.

      Sometimes you can fight fire with fire. Most the time though, you just end up making an even bigger fire.

      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Monday March 15 2021, @10:54PM (1 child)

        by Immerman (3985) on Monday March 15 2021, @10:54PM (#1124635)

        That's $120 billion for 12 flights, while the high capacity Apollo LM Truck was designed to deliver 11,000 pounds of payload to the surface. That means 4.3 flights to deliver a single 20' shipping container worth of supplies. Even though a whole lot of that money went to R&D, you're still looking at way over $4 billion per shipping container.

        So, how many shipping containers do you suppose it would realistically take to establish enough of a base that they could start mining oxygen, metal, etc. and start contributing to their own growth? There could be a lot of concrete construction early on, but concrete has lousy tensile strength, so for pressurized environments you'd need to either at least ship rebar from Earth, or bury the habitat fairly deep underground to use weight to counteract air pressure. Assuming a typical 3 tons/m^3 rock density for lunar regolith, you'd need about 20m to reach a pressure of 1 atm under lunar gravity - and probably about twice that in practice since you'd probably be dealing with sand and gravel with lots of voids rather than solid rock. Though with luck they could find some lava tubes to build in, taking advantage of the mass of rock already above them.

        As for the women thing - you've clearly gt your own opinions that I'm unlikely to sway. I'll simply say I'm not actually terribly concerned about the differences in carreer choice - we're different, it's reasonable that those differences would manifest in some obvious ways. What I *am* concerned about is the differences in compensation and power. There's a very strong trend to pay women less for the same job, even when they outperform their male peers. And even more persistently to pay "women's jobs" dramatically less than "men's jobs" even when both require a similar level of skill and training. And of course there's the long-standing trend to drive women out of a career path as it becomes respectable. Computer science being one of the obvious recent examples - it was predominantly a poorly paid "woman's job", following the trend of women as pre-digital computers - until the potential and respectability began to become obvious, at which point women were largely driven out of the field and wages increased substantially. As for power - given the large number of ancient societies that had matriarchal power structures, any argument that women don't want to be in positions of authority falls flat. If anything it's a strong argument that they should be over-represented in a just society, on the theory that anyone who actually wants power should not be given it.

        • (Score: 2) by Socrastotle on Tuesday March 16 2021, @04:54AM

          by Socrastotle (13446) on Tuesday March 16 2021, @04:54AM (#1124725) Journal

          The point I was making with the Apollo figures was not to say we rebuild the Apollo program, but rather that *even* the Apollo program was getting to the moon for costs nowhere even remotely close to $20-$30 billion. The actual cost SpaceX would charge would likely be in hundreds of millions. And Starship will bring that even further down.

          Again on the women topic, you're engaging in the exact same behaviors that ended up getting gender studies programs cancelled in Norway. You're saying a lot of hyper-charged statements that are not only lack evidence but also logic. On evidence, a recent Harvard study [] engaged in a study on a micro-scale, analyzing exactly why a wage gap persists in a unionized occupation where basic education levels were identical, work tasks were designed to be homogeneous, promotion was based entirely on tenure, and yet men were still earning more. They, once again, found personal decisions were entirely driving the differences in outcome. And that study is not a one-off. Literally every single time a field is examined in detail, you find - there is no gender gap, whatsoever.

          On the logic side of the issue, think about what you're proposing. Corporations, especially now a days, care about nothing more than their bottom line. The 'old boys club' stereotype doesn't exactly fit with the reality of them happily replacing Mike Smith with Achalraj Balakrishnan. If women were capable of working to the same degree, and producing the same results for less? You'd see corporations with nothing but women. For that matter, women themselves are completely free to start their own companies. And indeed if they can increase efficiency to the point of performing the same work, for less, they'd be able to outprice nearly any corporation in existence since labor is generally a company's greatest expense? Yet? None of this exists.

          And nah, unlike most - I rarely have my mind "made up" on just about any topic. I, so much as I can, try to survey the evidence and come to my own conclusion. Most people, especially Americans, now a days tend to go in the opposite direction of simply deciding what they want to be true and then finding evidence to support it. And since people just want to confirm their own biases, most don't really bother to check the quality or integrity of what they're reading, citing, etc - only ensuring that it confirms their biases.