Scientists propose storing DNA 'ark' on the Moon to preserve our planet

Written on 03/15/2021
SCIENCE


By Ciarán Mather

It would seem that some scientists are planning to give a futuristic twist to the old phrase 'don't keep all your eggs in the one basket.'

A group of researchers have suggested sending an 'ark' full of DNA from Earth, consisting of various types of sperm, eggs and seeds from plants. 

In their proposal, they outlined that this 'gene bank' would be hidden inside the moon's lava tubes: hollowed-out tunnels and caves sculpted by lava more than 3 billion years ago inside the moon. 

In addition, the banks would be powered by solar panels.

Jekan Thanga, head of the Space and Terrestrial Robotic Exploration (SpaceTREx) Laboratory at the University of Arizona, explained his team's back-up plan to LiveScience: 'There's this strong interconnectedness between us and nature. '

'We have a responsibility to be guardians of biodiversity and [to also be] the means to preserve it.'

He added the lunar ark approach is preferable to simply preserving it on Earth, in the event of our planet potentially succumbing to a disastrous event such as a super-volcano or even nuclear war.

The ark would hold the cryogenically (frozen) genetic material of all 6.7 million known species of plants, animals and fungi on Earth.

This would require at least 250 rocket launches to transport the cargo to the moon from Earth, according to researchers.

Not all the technology needed for this ambitious project exists yet, but the researchers think that it could realistically be built within the next 30 years.

The idea of an ark containing Earth's DNA echoes similar concepts seen in science fiction stories before, such as in 2017's Alien: Covenant.