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The Doomsday Ark

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The Doomsday Ark

I came across this story at The Daily Galaxy a couple of months ago and thought it was a tremendous source for a story idea.

According to the news piece, plans are being drawn up for a “Doomsday ark” to be built on the moon by the European Space Agency. The Ark will contain the essentials of life and human civilisation and will be activated in the event that Earth is devastated by a giant asteroid or nuclear war – or, for us writers, alien invasion or zombie apocalypse – destroying the human species. This lunar information bank would provide survivors on Earth with a remote-access toolkit to rebuild the human race.

Ark 1.0 would contain hard discs holding information such as DNA sequences and useful instructions such as how to smelt metal or information about agriculture. It would sealed in a vault and be buried just below the Moon’s surface with transmitters sending the data to heavily protected receivers on earth. If no receivers survive, the ark will continue transmitting the information until new receivers could be built. Ark 2.0 would later be extended to include a diversity of species from the biosphere, natural material such as microbes, animal embryos and plant seeds and even cultural relics such as surplus items from museum stores. Presumably version 2.0 will also have social networking.

Earthrise, NASA 1968

Now apocalypse scenarios aside, this is a great opportunity for a more thoughtful piece on the entire concept of a Doomsday Ark. Imagine that we get advance warning that the Earth is about to be hit by an enormous asteroid, likely to devastate life on earth, but this time we can’t just get on the phone and ask Bruce Willis to save the day. However, we do have sufficient time to create and deploy a doomsday ark or series of arks and maybe give the survivors, if there are any, a chance of starting again, armed with important learning tools and information for re-booting the human race. What would it need to contain? What’s important, and what isn’t? My argument is that this is just ‘stuff’ that we do, but what is the essence of humanity, and frankly, is it worth saving? I can envisage something akin to 1998’s Deep Impact or, one of my favourites, 1997’s Contact, movies which are light on CGI extravaganza – although they both have their moments – but rather heavier on the philosophical and psychological impact of this kind of event.

It would also be important to think through what we would leave out. There’s a strong case – in my humble opinion – to not include information about religion or politics. Let the survivors find their feet on those subjects alone. A post-apocalyptic world will have it’s own crosses to bear and drums to bang. Then again, concepts like government and church have a habit of imposing order on chaos, helping folk to make sense of their lives in a larger context. This is deep, rich stuff for a film to tackle.

Now lets go the other way. What if the information we send up is wrong, or gets corrupted in some way, then we end up re-starting the human race in a totally different way to what was originally envisaged. So what could go wrong. Was it the genetic codes? Did the seeds and embryos we send up become horribly mutated by the storage process? Are we leaving a destroyed Earth just to end up destroying the Moon? Is it in our natures to just destroy everything wherever we decide to lay our hats? It’s an interesting concept to work through.

Anyway, that’s it for this post, I’m not going to labour the point there’s enough here to be getting on with but I hope someone out there thinks it’s worth considering. Good luck and good writing.


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