restricted access Chapter 8. The Doomsday Ark and the Alien Priest
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116 CHAPTER 8 THE DOOMSDAY ARK AND THE ALIEN PRIEST Space travel is a theology that needs no god. Some find one anyway—moonwalker Charles Duke returned from his trip a born-again Christian—but the presence of great wells of faith in something out there, something infinitely discoverable , doesn’t mean there has to be a king of it. In this religion , science and dreams finger outward to the very rim of possibility, the Cheshire Cat and Schrodinger’s romp together , and the worshipper’s one desire is the chance to play too. So it is with the moon: beyond the solutions to food and shelter, beyond the practicalities of trade, all brilliant enough, a nimbus of the marvelous rings the whole, hints of dreams beyond the obvious. One of these, barely crystallized yet, takes our survival instinct and beams it through a sort of giant prism. As we’ve seen here on Earth, bunkers are proliferating as we speak (did I mention We’ve got our Norwegian seed vault. We’ve got a “charitable Pope Brock ✴ 117 frozen zoo project” in Britain storing DNA samples of endangered species. We’ve got Vivos Cryovault (not a charity) filing sperm and eggs so that post-Armageddon your grandiose genes can help repopulate the planet. But all of them are candles in the wind compared to the lunar Doomsday Ark. Maybe you picture at first, as I did, a hulk and a ladder and no one about, but this is not on its face a nutball scheme like some. Conceived by the NYU-based Alliance to Rescue Civilization, the Ark project would begin with burying “all human knowledge” on hard discs on the moon. In the event of a global disaster, this information would be transmitted in six major languages to “4,000 heavily fortified radio receivers stationed on Earth” so that those left moaning in the rubble would have the blueprints to rebuild. But that’s nothing really , that’s the prosaic part, for as Bernard Foing of the ESA, a champion of the project, described it to me, this “lunar lifeboat ” would be more than a library, more than a DNA bank: it would be a breeding site as well. So for example if we killed off Earth’s last giraffe, new ones could ship from the stock already on display in lunar zoos. “In the long term,” he said, “you could re-create whales. And then later, when we build whole biospheres on the moon, we could have lunar seas for our whales to swim in.” 118 ✴ THE DOOMSDAY ARK AND THE ALIEN PRIEST Credit: John Cote Theoretically I get what he’s saying—well no, I don’t, but I’m willing to believe it’s possible. The hardest part, it seems to me, lies in re-creating a good first whale. In 2010 dart-gun samples from 955 whales found “high levels of cadmium, aluminum, chromium, lead, silver, mercury and titanium” in virtually every one. “You could make a fairly tight argument,” said the project chief, that ocean contaminants represent “the single greatest health threat that has ever faced the human species,” and as for whales themselves, “I don’t see any future . . . except extinction.” So you see the challenge. With a prognosis like that, if we’re going to have a whale we can work with, we’ll have to get the lead out as it were. It would be bad Pope Brock ✴ 119 for morale to ship toxic DNA to the moon, grow new whales and watch them die out all over again. Hard-core skeptics of the Doomsday Ark see a more basic flaw. It goes back to those radio signals sending Earthward the knowledge to regrow civilization: how will survivors (if any) find those receiving stations (if any left) and utilize the information (with what?)? But I don’t see why that’s so complicated . People on the moon could fly down with coffee and blankets and explain it to them. If people on the moon are paying attention, that is, if they’re not too drunk on the rest of the universe to care. Let’s turn with a breath of relief to something unambiguously positive: the Hubble telescope. For almost thirty years it has been sailing through space to the strains of Blue Danube Waltz, a contender for the best thing science ever built. It has peered 10–15 billion light years into the past. It has revealed...