A Space-Faring Backup for Earth’s Biota
Elon Musk, the chief executive of spacecraft company SpaceX, believes we need to reinvigorate popular interest in space colonization, not just to boldly go where no man has gone before, but to save life from extinction. In an interview with Nature, Musk asserts that “I think we need planetary redundancy to protect against the unlikely possibility of natural or man-made Armageddon.” He joins recent pleas from physicist Steven Hawking and science journalist William Burrows, who have both argued that the only way to save Earth is to leave it.
While it sounds far-out, there’s nothing more practical than spreading copies of Earth’s life and cultures through the universe. As meteors, global glaciations, and a certain bipedal species of ape have shown, Earth is exquisitely vulnerable to catastrophe. We already have terrestrial storage for life’s diversity, including San Diego’s Frozen Zoo, and the Svalbard Seed Vault, which has 400,000 seed samples of food crops. A backup in orbit, on the moon, or on a new planet is the next logical step.
Image via Atlas Obscura.