Scientists Want To Build An Underground Doomsday Vault On The Moon
Scientists have proposed building an underground ‘Doomsday vault’ in a series of caves and tunnels beneath the surface of the moon.
Scientists from the University of Arizona likened the idea to the Global Seed Vault, which is located on a remote island in Svalbard between Norway and the North Pole, and contains almost one million seed samples.
Where the seed vault looks after varieties of food crops, the vault on the moon would be home to millions of seed, spore, sperm and egg samples from Earth’s species to protect humanity in the case of the ‘total annihilation of Earth’.
Described as a ‘modern global insurance policy’, the 6.7 million species samples would be cryogenically preserved in the vault and hidden in a network of about 200 tubes that scientists uncovered in 2013.
The tubes are once thought to have carried streams of lava that melted through the soft rock to form the underground tunnels billions of years ago, and scientists believe they could provide the perfect shelter for the samples.
Measuring 100 metres (328 feet) in diameter, the team believe the tubes would protect the vault from solar radiation, surface temperature changes and micrometeorites. It would be powered by solar panels and accessed by elevator shafts that would lead to a facility storing cryogenic preservation modules.
Researchers presented the idea in a paper earlier this month, though explained that the building of the vault would be dependent on advancements in cryo-robotics technology.
Seeds must be cooled to -292°F (-180°C) to be cryopreserved, while stem cells must be stored at -320°F (-195.5°C). However, the team has explained that such low temperatures could cause metal parts of the base to freeze, jam or cold-weld together.
In spite of the hurdles that need to be overcome, researcher Jekan Thanga, a professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering in the University of Arizona College of Engineering, stressed the importance of the idea as he commented, ‘Earth is naturally a volatile environment.’
As humans, we had a close call about 75,000 years ago with the Toba supervolcanic eruption, which caused a 1,000-year cooling period and, according to some, aligns with an estimated drop in human diversity.
Because human civilization has such a large footprint, if it were to collapse, that could have a negative cascading effect on the rest of the planet.
Another unknown regarding the base is the impact the moon’s lack of gravity could have on preserved seeds, as well as how it could communicate with a base on Earth.
Approximately 250 rocket launches would be required to transport about 50 samples from each of 6.7 million species to the moon.
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