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But a few weeks before Spivack had to deliver the lunar library to the Israelis, however, he decided to include some DNA in the payload anyway. Into the resin they tucked hair follicles and blood samples from Spivack and 24 others that he says represent a diverse genetic cross-section of human ancestry, in addition to some dehydrated tardigrades and samples from major holy sites, like the Bodhi tree in India.
A few thousand extra dehydrated tardigrades were sprinkled onto tape that was attached to the lunar library.
The promising thing about the tardigrades, says Spivack, is that they could hypothetically be revived in the future. Tardigrades are known to enter dormant states in which all metabolic processes stop and the water in their cells is replaced by a protein that effectively turns the cells into glass.
Scientists have revived tardigrades that have spent up to 10 years in this dehydrated state, although in some cases they may be able to survive much longer without water. Although the lunar library is designed to last for millions of years, scientists are just beginning to understand how tardigrades manage to survive in so many unforgiving environments. Spivack says that adding the DNA-filled resin to the lunar library at the last minute was a major risk, because any mistakes in how it was incorporated could have ruined the nickel engravings.
In retrospect, however, it may have been what saved the library from destruction.
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The resin layers added a significant amount of strength to the lunar library, which made it less likely to break apart upon impact. But Spivack says that even if the library broke into pieces, their analysis shows that these fragments would be large enough to retrieve most of the analog information in the first four layers. Any lunar tardigrades found by future humans will have to be brought back to Earth or somewhere with an atmosphere in order to rehydrate them.
Whether this will be enough to bring them back to life, however, remains to be seen. This honor belongs to the Apollo astronauts, who left nearly bags of human feces on the lunar surface before they returned to Earth. This is good news for Spivack, who wants to incorporate more DNA into future libraries on the moon and beyond.
This fall, Spivack says the Arch Mission Foundation will be launching a crowdfunding campaign that will solicit DNA samples from volunteers to include on the next moon mission, as well as DNA from endangered species.
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In addition, Spivack also plans to send vast troves of information coded in synthetic DNA. Indeed, the Arch Mission Foundation has already figured out how to encode the English Wikipedia in synthetic DNA, which will hitch a ride to the lunar surface with Astrobotic , a company that was formed to work on the Google Lunar X Prize, in Creating a backup of the entire planet is the sort of high-minded idealism associated with the titans of Silicon Valley, but Spivack is well on his way to turning it into a reality.
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Updated , 12 pm EST: There are 60, analog images in the first four layers of the lunar library, not 30, The tape containing tardigrades was not used to attach the lunar library to the lander. The tape was attached to the lunar library, wrapped in several layers of insulation, and then attached to the Beresheet lander. Lily Hay Newman. Reserve yours now! Allow Cookies.
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