How To Backup Life On Earth Ahead Of Any Doomsday Event

The Conversation

There are ten asteroids that the space organisation NASA stated this month are classified as potentially hazardous based on their size and their orbits in our Solar system.

NASA has now identified 693 near-Earth items thanks to the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer spacecraft thats been looking for potential threats to Earth because 2013.

The organisation doesnt specify what kind of hazard those ten asteroids pose. But Earth has been struck by objects previously, with catastrophic results. Scientists mostly agree that it was an asteroid or comet impact that began the series of events which wiped out the dinosaurs around 60 million decades ago.

This animation shows asteroids and comets detected from the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) assignment.

Each year several previously hidden asteroids whizz beyond Earth, sometimes with only with a few days warning. This year two of those asteroids came very near Earth, with one in May sailing beyond only 15,000kilometers away. On cosmic scales, that was a very close shave.

But changes from objects in space are only among several manners that humankind and many of life on Earth could suddenly disappear.

We are currently noticing that extinctions are happening now at an unprecedented rate. In 2014 it was estimated that the extinction rate is now 1,000 times greater than before individuals were around the Earth. The estimated number of extinctions ranges from 200 to 2,000 species annually.

From all of this very stressing data, it wouldn’t be a stretch to state that we’re currently within a doomsday scenario. Of course, the day is longer than 24 hours but can be instead at the sequence of a century or 2.

What can we do about this potential possibility of impending doom? We can attempt to prevent some of the likely scenarios. We should behave to tackle climate change and we can develop new asteroid-tracking systems and put in place a method to divert an asteroid on a crash course with Earth.

But the threats we face are so unpredictable that we have to get a backup plan. We need to plan for the time after our doomsday and think about the way the post-apocalyptic Earth can recover and humankind will prosper again.

A backup strategy

Some efforts to backup life on the world have already begun. Since the 1970s scientists round the world began to shop seeds of possibly endangered plants. You will find now heaps of seed banks or vaults scattered round the entire world.

The most famous is that the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, located on a remote Norwegian island roughly 1,300kilometers from the North Pole. The place was deliberately chosen to pay for the project safe and secure long-term storage from cold and dry stone vaults.

A threat of thawing in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Flickr/Landbruks og matdepartementet,CC BY-ND
However there were reports earlier this season that the vault had suffered issues with water in the surrounding melting permafrost (caused by global warming) gaining entrance to regions of the structure.

Less common are vaults for storing biological material in creatures. There are a small number of so-called suspended zoos around the world. They shop embryos, eggs, eggs and more lately DNA of endangered creatures. Thus far, sperm, eggs and embryos which were frozen for about 20 years are shown to be viable.

Each one of the storage methods that involve freezing have the exact same problem that the substance is at risk of thawing out if the freezing methods neglect. Storing frozen biological substance for centuries or even millennia on Earth is not realistic.

Individuals can now order an entire genome of a living organism and the price has decreased to the point where it costs less than US$1,000 to sequence the human genome. This process effectively turns the information out of any organisms cells to data.

If prospective scientists can generate living DNA in the genome data and may subsequently create living organisms out of that DNA, subsequently using the data alone may be enough to replicate the Earths living organisms.

Where to keep the copies?

But where if humankind store the copies? As French president Emmanuel Macron said lately, there is no plan B because there is no world B, echoing 2014 remarks from crochet Ki-moon when he was secretary general of the United Nations.

Backing up on Earth appears a risky approach, equivalent to getting a computer backup in an external hard disk that sits directly next to your computer.

So given that the motivation of backing up Earths organisms is the likelihood of Earth itself suffering a disaster, it follows that our world is not the best place for the backups. The partial flooding of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault illustrates that perfectly.

Possibly the obvious place to find the copies is in distance.

Seeds have already been taken to distance for short intervals (six months) to test their viability back on Earth. These experiments so far have been motivated by the desire to finally grow plants in space itself, on space stations, or on Mars.

Space is a harsh environment for biological substance, where cells are vulnerable to potentially very high doses of radiation which will damage DNA. Storage of seeds at low Earth orbit is desirable as Earths magnetic field provides some security from space radiation. Storage outside of this zone and in deep space will require other methods of radiation protection.

The other question is how you would get seeds and other biological substance safely back to Earth after a worldwide catastrophe. We get to the robotics that can help, as autonomous re-entry of biological material from orbit is completely possible.

The tricky part is really for our orbiting bio-backup to understand when its freight is required and where to ship it to. Maybe we need a worldwide restricted robot crew Such as David from the recent Alien movies that could wake up the orbiter if it’s needed.

Hello, Im David.

Alternately, it could be staffed by a rotating crew of wardens much like the International Space Station. These people could execute other significant scientific work too.

Other locations in area for storage of biological material or data include that the Moon, and the moons of the solar systems gas planets asteroids or deep distance itself on free flying spacecraft. Such projects are suggested and teams around the world have started planning such ventures.

The ConversationSo that it appears that some people have already accepted the fate of humankind version 1.0 and that it’s going to end up in the relative near term. The motion to create our backup prepared for humankind version 2.0 has already started.

Jonathan Roberts, Professor at Robotics, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally printed on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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