Space Seed: Scientists Want to Open Sperm Bank on Moon

  • Does the future of humanity lie under the lunar surface?

When the moon hits your eye like a sperm on the fly, that’s not amore. It’s just scientists’ latest plan to potentially save life on Earth.

After 2020, it’s not too surprising to hear that some science-y people are thoroughly concerned with our planet’s potential to support file. There’s any number of things that could end life as we know it – drought, other environmental disasters, stray asteroids, or the Cold War-era favorite, total nuclear annihilation.

Now, scientists from the University of Arizona are suggesting a radical approach to saving Earth’s animal life, including humans. They want to construct a gigantic sperm bank on the Moon, reported New York Times.

The science team published their report on the subject at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Aerospace Conference.

“Earth is naturally a volatile environment,” said the lead author Jekan Thanga.

According to him, several animal species are seriously endangered. A disaster that wipes them out could come any day.

As an example of life’s vulnerability, including our own, Thanga referenced the eruption of Mount Toba in Indonesia some 75,000 years ago. He said that it caused a millennium-long cooling period that some researchers believe destroyed a good portion of human diversity.

“Due to human activity and other factors that we fully don’t understand, there’s been rapid losses [in biodiversity] over the last few decades,” said Thanga.

Underground Facility

The solution to the problem, suggested Thanga, is to launch life into space. He’s not vouching for colonizing other planets, though – he wants to store reproductive cells from current animal and human life on the Moon.

Thanga’s proposition includes establishing a “human seed vault” beneath the Moon’s surface. Other scientists have recently discovered underground (or is it under-moon) lunar pits that they believe once were filled with lava.

These pits are ideally sized to house a long-term sperm bank, said Thanga. They stretch some 300 feet beneath the lunar surface, and would offer perfect protection from meteors, extreme temperature changes, and cosmic radiation.

Thanga’s proposition includes a surface-level dome, which would house the entrance airlock to the seed vault. On the surface would also be a collection of solar panels to provide the installation with power.

An elevator would lead to the underground installation, which would include several cryo-preservation modules for 6.7 million species’ sperm cells and eggs.

“We can still save them until the tech advances to then reintroduce these species — in other words, save them for another day,” Thanga said on his motivations to preserve the reproductive cells.

The vault would also include a laboratory for preservation analysis. Thanga calls the entire comples an “ark,” named after the famous biblical boat that also saved two of every animal on Earth.

Only this time, we would only save the parts needed to make more of the animals.

As to why the ark needs to be on the Moon, Thanga provided a blunt answer. Earth is simply too dangerous a place to safely store the valuable sperm and eggs.

‘Not Crazy Big’

Thanga said he was “surprised” by how economically feasible the preservation project would be. Granted, he hasn’t consulted actual economists, but his “back-of-the-envelope” calculations show that it could actually be done.

According to Thanga, we would have to stage 250 rocket launches to transport 50 samples of each of the 6.7 million species to the Moon. In comparison, constructing the International Space Station in the lower Earth orbit required 40 launches.

So yes, it’s a much larger-scale project than the ISS. But not by so much that it would be impossible.

“It’s not crazy big. We were a little bit surprised about that,” said Thanga.

The Plant Preserve

The sperm bank on the Moon isn’t completely without precedent, either. Although its predecessor is located on Earth, we’ve already begun the process to safeguard terrestrial life for the future.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard Archipelago. Sitting in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, the island’s underground facility houses seeds from more than 992,000 plant species.

Each sample contains roughly 500 seeds. Cryogenically preserved deep beneath Spitsbergen’s frozen surface, the seeds wait for a time when their parent species may no longer exist on Earth.

Reading the less odd news of the day, it might not be a bad idea to start thinking about preserving life other than plants. That includes us humans.

There’s just one question – if humanity wipes itself out, who’s going to retrieve the sperm?


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