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ithin the last 20 centuries, our world has seen a lot of war, destruction, and suffering. There was always a fear that people would kill one another until nothing was left, but we like to think that the world leaders from 1000 or even 2000 years ago had more sense. If Roman Emperors had the technology we do today they would probably nuked most of the world. If Napolean had the weaponry that is available today we would all probably speak French. If Arkhipov wasn’t going to stop a nuclear missile from hitting America we would all probably be dead now.

The point that I am trying to get across is that our world has been full of conflict which is something inevitable, meaning that we will most probably end up seeing another war soon enough. With the sort of weapons that are available today, we come closer to the destruction of our own world, as if Global Warming wasn’t doing enough damage.

This planet that we live on has an expiry date which will be most likely man-made, so why not have a plan B? If the recent events that have occurred during 2020 have not taught us that nothing is impossible, I don’t know what can open the eyes of society. Based on historical events, and the fast-multiplying factors that put this world in danger, a team of researchers from the University of Arizona has developed a plan B that could save humanity.

An Ark to preserve life on Earth

The head of the research team named Jekan Thanga who started this research had been inspired by the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark. For those who may not be familiar, Noah was asked by God to build an Ark big enough for himself and two of every animal on Earth within 40 days as a big flood would kill everything on Earth.

Noah’s Ark (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The same sort of concept applies to the lunar ark concept which they called “modern global insurance policy”. Rather than an ark, they plan to build a solar-powered vault just like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault present in Spitsbergen, Norway.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The vault that the team of scientists has conceptualized would be a lot bigger and it would not only house seeds but also freeze human sperm and eggs as well as the egg samples from 6.7 million species on Earth. Even Professor Thanga mentions the historical reasoning for this project by stating:

“As humans, we always had close calls throughout history” and “Earth is naturally a volatile environment.”

Jekan Thanga

There are many other reasons that are mentioned by the research team from a Climate Change perspective. Another interesting reason given by the team is that in the future biodiversity will decrease significantly. It is not just the future, but something that is happening right now and has for the past 200 years. Many species are going extinct and by year the number keeps on growing. Such an ark or vault would be the backup plan for a number of things, not just an inevitable apocalypse.

The lunar Ark

Building such an ark or vault is not as difficult as it may seem, the difficult part is building it on the moon where conditions are unfavorable. The cold temperatures can make the metals that are used during the building process can break or even freeze the whole structure were not necessary. The average temperature on Mars is about -25 degrees Celsius (-15 degrees Fahrenheit), and the lack of breathable air makes it even more difficult to build.

The only good thing about the project is a network of tunnels in the shape of rounded tubes which could be used to build the vault. These 200 lava tubes beneath the surface of the moon have been discovered in 2013. They are about 3 to 4 billion years old, from a time when there were volcanos on the moon. Yes, the moon was once a very habitable place, quite similar to Earth.

The team’s model for the underground ark includes solar panels, at least two elevator shafts, and cryogenic preservation modules (Source: University of Arizona)

In order to face all of the challenges brought by the environment on Mars, the whole structure would be built using superconductive metals which will not be affected by the low temperature. The whole system will be powered by solar panels in order to keep all the seeds and eggs at a cold temperature. In order to cryopreserve eggs and seeds, they must be cooled at a temperature of -180 degrees Celcius (-292 degrees Fahrenheit).

The idea was presented this year at the IEEE Aerospace Conference and people seem to have a positive attitude, the only problem now is financing and just as with the Global seed vault, all countries will need to come in and help financially based on their economical power. The major part that is costly is transporting all the necessary materials, seeds, eggs, and workers. Professor Thanga said that it would take around 250 rocket launches to transport 50 samples from each of the 6.7 million species.

The International Space Station took 40 rocket launches to be built at a cost of $150 billion, so how much would it cost to complete this project that would take nine times more rocket launches? This is definitely a long-term investment which as time passes seems to be more necessary. We need to stop being careless and start believing in facts and numbers, otherwise, we would just end up like our old ancestors.

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