Mar 13, 2021 - Science

Researchers propose plan to create lunar biological repository for humans

Picture of the moon

Press here to restart Earth. Photo: DeAgostini/Getty Images

A team of researchers is floating the idea of creating a biological repository on the Moon for millions of species on Earth — including humans.

The big picture: Whether the end comes from natural or human-made causes, our continued existence is far from certain. A biological ark could provide a backup plan for life on Earth — provided we can get over the weirdness of having a frozen sperm bank orbiting above our heads.

What's happening: Last weekend, University of Arizona researcher Jekan Thanga presented a plan at the IEEE Aerospace Conference to cryogenically store frozen seed, spore, sperm and egg cells from 6.7 million species in a solar-powered facility in lava tubes beneath the Moon's surface.

How it works: Such an archive could theoretically allow future generations —human or otherwise — to resurrect a species that had been lost to extinction.

  • Similar archives already exist for seeds here on Earth, including the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in arctic Norway.
  • But the first rule of archiving is that you keep your backup in a separate location, and any bank that exists on Earth is inherently vulnerable to an existential threat that would decimate life on this planet.

Context: Thanga's plan is just one of a number of different efforts to use space to preserve human heredity against the threat of total catastrophe.

The bottom line: I'm all for backing up your data, but ask Ozymandias how these efforts tend to work out.

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