comScore Are We Really Sending a Bunch of Sperm to the Moon?

Are We Really Sending a Bunch of Sperm to the Moon?

Talk about a moonshot ...

A scene from Georges Méliès‘s 1902 film A Trip to the Moon, the moon with a rocket in it's eye

“Scientists plan to shoot massive load of sperm samples onto the moon.” Those are real words from a real tweet from The AV Club that set the internet snickering yesterday. And really, can you blame us? Sending sperm to the Moon sounds absurd enough, but when you phrase it like that, it activates our inner morons. But what is this story about? Are we really thinking of sending sperm to the Moon? And if so … why?

The real story here is more summer blockbuster than late-night Cinemax, because the idea is to create a vault on the Moon to preserve Earthly life in the event of a doomsday scenario—not cheerful, but some folks are pessimists, I guess. According to CNN, scientists from the University of Arizona have proposed creating a vault—or, more appropriately, an ark that will act as a “modern global insurance policy.” The ark would hold 6.7 million genetic samples from all kinds of species, and yes, that includes sperm, but also eggs, seeds, spores, and all that kind of stuff. These samples would, under this plan, all be cryogenically frozen. And this load of samples wouldn’t be in a vault so much as stored in a series of pits, caves, tunnels, and tubes under the Moon’s surface.

So, yes, the idea is sperm on the Moon but also lots of other stuff, stored there just in case, uh, life on Earth is destroyed entirely? “As humans, we had a close call about 75,000 years ago with the Toba supervolcanic eruption, which caused a 1,000-year cooling period and, according to some, aligns with an estimated drop in human diversity,” lead scientist Jekan Thanga, a professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering in the University of Arizona College of Engineering. “Because human civilization has such a large footprint, if it were to collapse, that could have a negative cascading effect on the rest of the planet.” So we need a vault of genetic material on the Moon because we may be doomed as a planet.

I guess the “Moon Sperm” headline is more cheerful.

The idea was presented at this year’s Institute Of Electrical And Electronics Engineers Aerospace Conference in a video, and it’s still just an idea at this point. To actually accomplish this will take serious advances in robotics and cryogenics technology, and also, about 250 rocket launches to the Moon to transport all those samples. And then, of course, there’s the construction and getting all that, uh, stuff in there and  … yeah. It’s a complicated idea and there are currently no actual plans to make it really happen.

So, no, we aren’t sending sperm to the Moon—yet. We’ll just have to keep planning for global annihilation the old-fashioned way with giant seed vaults in the arctic circle. And uh … it’s just plant seeds in there, right? You know what? I don’t want to know.

(via The AV Club, image: Public Domain)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.