The Wired.com article A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon says:

Spivack had planned to send DNA samples to the moon in future versions of the lunar library, not on this mission. 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. Ha and an engineer on Spivack’s team added a thin layer of epoxy resin between each layer of nickel, a synthetic equivalent of the fossilized tree resin that preserves ancient insects. 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.

I don't understand the purpose of sending all this human biological detritus to the Moon. There must have been some rationale for why people's hair and blood samples were collected, encapsulated, and sent to the surface of the Moon as a "diverse genetic cross-section of human ancestry". What was it exactly?

I don't find it as inspirational as sending the Voyager golden records and their attempt to capture Earth's populations' vibrancies out of the solar system, or Clyde Tombaugh's ashes past his discovered Pluto, (see photo in Did You Know There are 9 Secret Items Hidden on Pluto’s New Horizons Mission?).

Blood and hair follicles?? Was this some kind of conceptual space art project or is there a clear and possibly scientific purpose for putting bits of 25 human bodies on the Moon?

It sounds more like a potential plot for a future CSI Spaceforce episode.

Or perhaps a DNA degradation experiment helpful as part of Scott Manley's "proposed project" to find out exactly who was the original owner of the Apollo 10 floating turd discussed further in answers to Can someone help Scott Manley explain this Snoopy-capturing maneuver?


Nova Spivack explained in a tweet:

We sent enough DNA to regenerate life on Earth, if necessary. Although it would require more advanced biotech than we have to do that. At least our DNA is offsite now. But note that cells & DNA cannot survive or reproduce on the Moon. Yet if retrieved they could be useful…

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    $\begingroup$ His second-to-last sentence contradicts his first sentence. So the first sentence is nonsense. If, in some distant future, the samples could be retrieved, their degredation could indeed be investigated. So the science is not zero but IMHO pretty close to it. $\endgroup$ – DarkDust Aug 11 '19 at 7:10
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    $\begingroup$ @aml: It's not just that it cannot "function", the DNA is damaged by the radiation since it's not in a radiation-hardened container. So how can it ever serve as a "backup"? The only useful information I can see that you can get out of it is to investigate how much damage the radiation did and whether there's any pattern. $\endgroup$ – DarkDust Aug 12 '19 at 10:00
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    $\begingroup$ @DarkDust according to this a single copy of the human genome (haploid I assume) is about 4 picograms, thought that doesn't include the proteins that bind it. If each sample is 4 milligrams, then there is a redundancy of about 1 billion. So even if radiation does some damage, there are already molecular biology computational techniques to "figure out" what the original sequence would likely have been. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 12 '19 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ Also, radiation damage of a stored, inert sample will not produce coding errors (substitutions, deletions, etc.) like it would in living cells where DNA repair and replication are active. Scientists chop up genomes into tiny pieces to sequence them now, so random breaks in the chains by themselves aren't likely to be a major problem with the 10^9 redundancy. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 12 '19 at 23:46
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    $\begingroup$ @DarkDust for more, have a look at the answer to Was 14,000+ year old DNA “laying around in cave dirt” protected from degradation, or is it just naturally this robust? The local chemical conditions have a huge influence on how long DNA lasts the oldest being hundreds of millions of years old under ideal conditions. 100 million years exposed to radiation on Earth might be equivalent to 100 years encapsulated in a spacecraft on the Moon. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 13 '19 at 8:18

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