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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 Immerman on Monday March 15 2021, @10:14PM

    by Immerman (3985) on Monday March 15 2021, @10:14PM (#1124617)

    >It seems like the upper stage could be cheap enough to abandon at these places, despite the fully reusable nature of the vehicle. The biggest loss would be the Raptor engines.

    For Mars especially that's probably a good idea - that's a whole lot of water and energy to consume to ship back a giant fuel tank back to Earth where we can make more easily enough. Especially when that steel would be an extremely valuable resource on MArs, at least until they develop a substantial industrial base. But with a few tweaks it could be made even more appealing:

    1) Remove the engines from a bunch of rockets and ship them back to Earth as the payload of a single rocket. They're by far the most expensive components, and don't actually weigh all that much compared to the rest of the ship.

    2) Use the "shells" as habitat modules. You're talking ballpark of 2500m^3 of pressurized space within a Starship once you cut doors into the propellant tanks, pre-tested to far higher pressures than you'd want for a habitat. Towers are a bit unwieldy, but if you were looking to build a Mars colony it might well be worth it to ship a couple of those skeletal cranes to Mars - they could be far flimsier than on Earth thanks to the lower gravity. Pick up a pressurized Starship with two cranes: one on the nose as normal, then the other to grab it near the base and lay it down on its belly in a trench. Then cover it with a few meters of gravel and you've got yourself a nice stable, well-shielded habitat module. You might even weld floor-trusses in place within the fuel tanks ahead of time so that you only need to lay down some floor boards to create some nice wide-open multi-storey habitats. Might want a layer of insulation on the outside to keep the heat from leaching into the surrounding rock, but there's lots of options for that.

    I really think there's enormous potential for dedicated space-station and Moon-/Mars-base versions of Starship. They provide a whole lot of pressurized space, deliverable to wherever you want it with a minimum of fuss. But even just retrofitting normal Starships wouldn't take much effort - steel is easy to work with.

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