US scientists are working on a biodiversity ‘moon arch’ to store seeds on the moon more securely than the Svalbard Seed Vault does.
The potential for catastrophic biodiversity loss has prompted scientists at the University of Arizona in the United States to work on a “moon arch” to one day store seeds on the moon – a concept that is coming amid concerns growing concerns about the Svalbard Seed Vault and other storage sites that remain an increasingly vulnerable land.
The researchers are led by Jekan Thanga, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at the university’s College of Engineering. They presented their work at the IEEE Aerospace Conference earlier this month to explain how a solar-powered lunar storage station, filled with samples of frozen seeds, spores, sperm and eggs, could be a “global insurance policy” and protect some 6.7 million cash in the event of the cataclysm.
Their idea is based on the discovery in 2013 of 200 lava tubes under the surface of the moon. The tubes are about 100 meters in diameter and have formed caverns that have been intact for at least 3 billion years. Within them, future plants and animals could be protected from solar radiation or the impact of meteors below the ground, and in the absence of surface threats like water or rising temperatures. The lunar surface is still around -25 ° C, Thanga said, but the stored seeds would need temperatures of -180 ° C and the stem cells of -196 ° C.
Their vision of an underground vault next to human housing for rocket missions includes a surface solar farm for energy, elevators to storage, a lab, and the use of SphereX robots to navigate through the system. It is also based on quantum levitation for cold storage, a theory that uses superconducting materials and magnets to support the cryogenic system.
“It’s like they’re locked with ropes, but invisible ropes,” Thanga said. “When you get to cryogenic temperatures, strange things happen. Some of them look like magic, but are based on principles of physics that have been proven and tested in the laboratory to the limit of our understanding.
The University of Arizona team estimates that around 250 rocket launches would be needed to deliver 50 samples of each species; in comparison, it took 40 rocket launches to build the International Space Station.
There is still a lot of work to be done, but if successful, the moon could serve as an alternative to places like Svalbard, which is increasingly threatened by arctic warming and relies on energy. charcoal. An investigative article published on Sunday by Norwegian media NRK details the growing challenges in Svalbard.
Humanity has a responsibility to protect biodiversity, Thanga said, and the vault is a step in the right direction, but climate change on earth may make it inaccessible given the projected rise in sea level: “So, we need a modern arch that is safe and far from all possible cataclysms.