University of Arizona scientists propose lunar ark as a global insurance policy

Updated: Mar. 26, 2021 at 10:37 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Scientists at the University of Arizona are creating what they call a global insurance policy.

The team has created a plan to save humankind in the event of a global crisis.

The inspiration for this project came from the biblical story of Noah’s ark.

Instead of preserving two of every animal, this team wants to gather millions of samples from earth’s species and preserve them in a modern-day ark on the moon.

The idea of a solar-powered lunar ark might sound like it came out of a sci-fi novel, but Jekan Thanga said it is an out-of-this-world idea that is just realistic enough to work.

Thanga is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, where he is leading a team working to cryogenically freeze reproductive cells from species on earth.

“We are going after the grand idea of saving all the creatures, 6.7 million species,” Thanga said.

Thanga said the fragility of the earth makes it a risky place to preserve genetic material from the earth’s animals and plants.

“As much as we want to, we are not in total control of our own planet. There are far too many disturbances that happen, far too many instabilities,” Thanga said.

Thanga is referring to instabilities like volcanoes, asteroids, climate change, and global pandemics like COVID-19.

“The moon came to mind from our other projects involving exploration of lava tubes where we have learned these things have been pristine for three or four billion years and likely have been untouched,” Thanga said.

Thanga said scientists discovered a network of about 200 lava tubes just beneath the moon’s surface in 2013.

Lava tubes are underground caverns formed by steams of lava years ago. These lava tubes exist on earth too. In fact, a mile-long lava tube cave was discovered in the Coconino National Forest about 14 miles north of Flagstaff.

“It’s relatively protected from radiation. It is well protected from micro-meteorites. Plus the temperature is pretty well regulated,” said Claire Pedersion, a sophomore at the UA.

Pederson said the project aims to help fix the earth’s problems.

“We are not doing this as a way to be like there are all of these problems with the environment and pollution, let’s just leave and ruin another planet. We are trying to store all of these items on the moon so we can help save earth in the future,” Pederson said.

Creating genetic back-ups to preserve biodiversity is not a new concept.

A vault in Norway holds the genetic samples of plant species from around the world and has already been used to reintroduce certain plants back into the wild.

However, Thanga says the vault is still at risk of being destroyed, which is why they want to store the genetic information on the moon to ensure it survives any existential threats to earth.

Click here to learn more about this project.

Click here to watch the team’s presentation at the IEEE Aerospace Conference.

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