Dr Bernard Foing, the European Space Agency's chief scientist, has reported there should be a "Noah's Ark" on the Moon, in case life on Earth is wiped out by an asteroid or nuclear holocaust. He is concerned that if the Earth were destroyed, there would be little or nothing left of the rich diversity of life on the planet. His solution is to build a DNA library on Earth's satellite.
"If there were a catastrophic collision on Earth or a nuclear war, you could place some samples of Earth's , including humans, [on the Moon]." Dr Bernard Foing said the ark should be a repository for the DNA of every single species of plant and animal. "You could repopulate the Earth afterwards, like a Noah's Ark," he said.
A basic version of the ark would contain hard discs holding information such as DNA sequences and instructions for metal smelting or planting crops. It would be buried in a vault just under the lunar surface and transmitters would send the data to heavily protected receivers on earth. If no receivers survived, the ark would continue transmitting the information until new ones could be built.
The vault could later be extended to include natural material including microbes, animal embryos and plant seeds and even cultural relics such as surplus items from museum stores.
As a first step to discovering whether living organisms could survive, European Space Agency scientists are hoping to experiment with growing tulips on the moon within the next decade.
Tulips are ideal because they can be frozen, transported long distances and grown with little nourishment. Combined with algae, an enclosed artificial atmosphere and chemically enhanced lunar soil, they could form the basis of an ecosystem.
The first experiments would be carried out in transparent s containing a mix of gases to mimic the earth’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide given off by the decomposing plants would be mopped up by the algae, which would generate oxygen through photosynthesis.
The databank would be buried under rock to protect it from
the extreme temperatures, radiation and vacuum on the moon and initially run on solar power by robots and linked to earth by
radio transmissions. Scientists hope to put a manned station on the
moon before the end of the century.
The ESA scientists envisage placing the first experimental databank on the moon no later than 2020 and it could have a lifespan of 30 years.
The information would be held in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish and would be linked by transmitter to 4,000 “Earth repositories” that would provide shelter, food, a water supply for survivors.
The moon is the four-billion-year-old "childhood attic of the Earth." Future ESA missions can go back to the moon and get some of these samples of the early Earth -perhaps of some organics embedded into the samples there, and maybe even some trace of an organism that predates the oldest organism we've found so far in the Earth's fossil record.
“What we believe," Fong says, "is that about 4,500 million years ago an embryo of a planet about the size of impacted the Earth, but an impact so violent that part of the early mantle of the Earth, together with material from this impacter, was projected around the young Earth and formed a debris disc, which later re-condensed to form the Moon. We want to measure the chemical composition of the Moon and compare it to the composition of the Earth.”
By measuring the chemical makeup of the moon now, and knowing what we think was the makeup of the Earth back then, we will be able to better understand how much of the early Earth is incorporated into the moon, and what happened during this great impact event.
Posted by Casey Kazan.
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