Space Ark

Preliminary notes for Space Ark (DO NOT PUBLISH)

This is an extension of the doomsday vault projects that were developed in the 1980s. These were implemented in order to cryopreserve the DNA of Earth organisms, in order to secure their survival after a mass extinction event. Possible scenarios triggering near-term mass extinction events include: global warming, increased water-cycle volume (e.g. ice-shelf melt), asteroid impacts, “clathrate gun” methane eruptions, oceanic anoxic events, nearby gamma-ray bursts. Lower-grade scenarios occurring at this time include: habitat loss, hunting, and fishing.

AIM

Cryostorage of DNA samples, germ cells, and somatic cells from all Earth organisms. Genome database (non-biological storage). These are to be stored at a location away from Earth — e.g. Moon. The storage facility must have adequate shielding to protect the samples from irradiation induced by cosmic rays, solar flares and possible gamma-ray bursts. In addition, for long-term storage, the facility would need to take into account the length of time DNA and cells can be cryopreserved before they degrade.

CONFOUNDS

  • Cosmic rays, solar flares, and gamma-ray bursts
  • Degradation of DNA. The half-life at 13.1C in bone being 521yrs (http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/279/1748/4724) unknown degradation time for cryopreserved DNA.
  • Degradation of somatic and germ cells
  • Degradation of non-biological storage media
  • Loss of location of storage facility in event of extinction event on Earth (i.e. majority of humans and technological infrastructure destroyed)

SOLUTIONS TO CONFOUNDS

  • Deep burial under regolith to prevent irradiation
  • Usage of body with magnetosphere to prevent irradiation
  • Increased distance from sun to protect from solar flares
  • Repeated in-vitro whole genome amplification using PCR or Multiple Displacement Amplification to eliminate degradation of DNA. However, repeated freeze-thaw cycles will cause degradation too.
  • Somatic and germ cells stored and cultured live at 37C to eliminate degradation. However, they will require substrates with their nutrients, and growth factors. Not to mention getting this temperature! This is really difficult!
  • Regarding loss of location: it depends if we are we expecting humans to find it again post-ELE, or are we hoping for non-human life forms to find it? If humans, we can use rock carvings on Earth to provide a map. If non-humans then we would have to make something special — or non-natural — about the body where the storage facility resides. Perhaps moving it to a strange orbit, or a beacon?

It’s not really as bad as I made out. We can store DNA and somatic + germ cells for all species of Earth organisms on the Moon. Possibly in lava tubes or buried under several meters of regolith. And we can keep updating our storage facility over there every 2–3yrs per the cells and every 10–20yrs per the DNA. So that would be good! Just like we backup our data to dropbox or a USB drive etc. in case our main PC goes down!

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