Lunar Gene Banks


Endangered Species

Lunar Gene Bank genetic material of endangered species can be preserved permanently

in moon craters for research and cloning in the future black-eared mantella
burr owl


  • Over 15 – 30% of endangered species may disappear in the next 50 years. Conservation efforts may save only a fraction of them.


  • Preserved tissues can secure the genetic heritage of species, and may allow future cloning to restore biodiversity.
  • Biological information in endangered  organisms can yield new medicines.

  • In the long run, biological information in endangered species can help life to adapt to extreme new environments on Earth and in space.


Lunar Gene Banks

  • Genetic materials can be stored on Earth in refrigerated specimen banks. However, long-term storage for centuries is expensive, subject to disruptions, neglect, natural disasters, vandalism and war.

  • Fortunately, storage in polar lunar craters can avoid these problems.

    • Polar lunar craters are permanently below -200o C naturally. They don’t require expensiverefrigeration and the storage deposits will be free of maintenance.

    • Lunar sites are not subject to earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters.


Gene banks can be located in permanently cold lunar craters


Biological Requirements

  • Using 0.1 gram of genetic material from about 20 individuals per species can allow the future restoration of a species.

  • As little as 2 grams of preserved material can save a species. A realistic payload of 2,000 kg can save one million species.

  • With future launch costs of $1,000 - $10,000/kg, as little as $2M – 20M can save the genetic heritage of a million species for millenniums. The cost is similar to less secure terrestrial storage that may last for only a few decades.  

Sample Collection and Interim Storage

  • Specimens can be collected of endangered mammals, birds and reptiles; plants; insects; and microbial communities, especially from extreme environments.

  • The cost of collecting endangered animal species in the US may be $50 K – 80 K.

  • For interim storage, the samples may be freeze-dried and preserved under inert gas in liquid nitrogen.

  • Specimen banks can play major roles in collecting and interim storage.

Depositing the Samples

  • Recently, the US, Europe, China and Japan announced plans for manned lunar missions within 20 years.

  • Genetic samples are easily incorporated in these missions.

  • The astronauts can access the polar craters and can easily dig an  underground storage site.

  • A cavity of only a few m3 can accommodate the 2,000 kg materials from a million species.

  • Of course, the program can be started on an even smaller scale with a few kg of materials from up to a thousand selected species.  

  • Initially, the packaged material can be dropped at the lunar crater sites from lunar orbit, even without manned landings. They can be buried later in the excavated sites.

 Conservation Ethics, Economics, and Long-Term Benefits

  • A common genetic heritage unites the living world.

  • It is commonly recognized that this shared heritage should be preserved.

  • Genetic materials from various human populations, including endangered groups, can be included.

  • Storage can be offered to paying customers. This may be profitable and can help financing the storage for conservation.

  • On the long run, genetic information from diverse species will help us to adapt to new environments on Earth, and in new worlds in space.


  •  The genetic heritage of endangered species can be secured in lunar deposits safely and cheaply for  millenniums.

  • A useful program can start even on a scale of a few kg.

  • A modest payload of a few 1000 kgs can preserve the genetic heritage of up to a million species.

  • Specimen banks can play important roles in collecting samples and in interim storage.

  • Lunar gene banks can have significant ethical, economic, political, and long-term human benefits.

  • They can preserve the shared genetic heritage of life on Earth, and eventually help future life in space.

  • At little added cost, conserving endangered species can add a popular ethical component to space development.

Click here for Lunar Gene Bank paper  

Lunar gene banks, space resources, expanding life in space,

and the long-term future are discussed in

"Seeding The Universe with Life
- Securing Our Cosmological Future -"

© M. N. Mautner, Legacy Books, 2000

now available at

                                    Click on the small book image
                                           to go directly to the book




 Links to other astrobiology sites:


About the Author. Prof. Michael N. Mautner served on the faculty of Rockefeller University, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and is currently Research Professor of Chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the author of numerous articles and book chapters in physical chemistry, astrochemistry and biophysics, and of popular articles in “The Futurist” and “Spaceflight”, and member of the Editorial Board of “Astrobiology”. He has researched and advocated directed panspermia missions to seed the galaxy since 1977, and in 1996 founded the internet-based Society for Life in Space (SOLIS) - The Interstellar Panspermia Society.;      e-mail