Scientists are gearing up for repopulation, but in a new environment. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) are looking to set up a repository of reproductive cells from 6.7 million of the Earth's species on the moon. The moon-based sperm bank is being proposed as a "modern global insurance policy," as scientists look to the future of our civilization. Natural disasters, global warming, droughts, and more are threatening life on Earth as we know it, and some scientists believe that the future is in space.
The project aims to place the reproductive cell samples below the surface of the moon in a giant vault since Earth might not always be the safest place for these specimens. "Earth is naturally a volatile environment," said study author Jekan Thanga, which makes the moon the next best place to take them. Specifically, the proposed vault would be set up in newly discovered lunar pits, which scientists believe once had lava flowing through them.
An elevator will be set up to take humans and the samples down to the Cryo-Preservation modules below the moon's surface. The engineers have been referring to spot as an "ark," like Noah's Ark from the Bible. "We can still save them until the tech advances to then reintroduce these species - in other words, save them for another day," Jekan Thanga said. The IEEE study goes on to state that the lunar pits are perfect places to protect the sperm and egg from the wild weather swings on the moon, thanks to how deep they are.
As for who will man the sperm bank on the moon, that job will have to go to robots, since it's too cold for humans. The IEEE study proposes to program robots to make sure everything runs smooth below the surface. However, since robots made from metal could potentially get jammed from the cold, scientists are looking to develop "quantum levitation" techniques that would keep the robots from touching the floor of the lab. It sounds like something from a sci-fi book or movie, but this is something that could very well end up happening in the near future.
The idea for the "ark" on the moon is based on The Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago. The underground seed vault is a scientific attempt to ensure against the loss of seeds in other gene banks during a possible large-scale global crises. Jekan Thanga and his team also believe that their moon station will be cost effective too. They have predicted that it will only take 250 rocket launches to bring 50 reproductive cell samples of each 6.7 million species up there, while it only took 40 launches to set up the International Space Station. The moon might very well end up saving humanity one day, which will likely spark more than a few more sci-fi movies. The New York Post was one of the first outlets to report on the moon sperm bank.