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20th Jun 18

Future Now

#FutureMobility: Travelling beyond the stars

20th Jun 18

Ian Parsons
By Ian Parsons51 Followers

Your great-great grandchild could be a GMO living in space.

In the not-too-distant future, human life will be multiplanetary. With innovative companies such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin pushing the boundaries of spaceflight, the project to get humans to live permanently in space is becoming a reality. If all goes according to plan, the first humans will touch base on Martian soil by 2032.

Colonising Earth’s orbit

Engineers and scientists are exploring the possibilities of building settlements just outside Earth’s atmosphere. Dr Al Globus, senior research associate at San Jose State University, is an expert in space settlement. He believes that the next logical move for humans is to colonise Earth’s orbit.

The goal of these settlements can range from survival of the human race to industrial development. With overcrowding, global warming and threatening natural disasters, living in space could be a safe and sustainable alternative.

In an interview with The Independent, Jerry Stone points out these space colonies would initially be built to maintain solar panels to power earth-based industries. It is much more efficient to collect the sun’s energy from outside of the Earth’s atmosphere than it is from Earth itself.

GMOs are the way to go

Living in space or on a planet like Mars requires a massive technological and engineering undertaking. It also asks highly complex questions about what it means to be a healthy, fully functioning human being. All life forms on Earth have evolved over time to survive on this specific planet. Anything that leaves Earth to live somewhere else, even us, would be severely challenged by the harsh, alien conditions and the biological limitations. To replicate Earth’s conditions elsewhere might be a short-term goal, but it will not be sustainable in the long run. Relying on evolution alone will not help, because let’s be honest: ‘Ain't nobody got time for that!’

According to researcher Lisa Nip, if we hope to one day leave Earth, our bodies are going to have to become better at surviving in the harsh conditions of space. ‘We're approaching a time during which we'll have the capacity to decide our own genetic destiny,’ says Lisa.

 

 

For this, Lisa turns to nature for inspiration. Lisa’s research in synthetic biology aims to use the amazing powers from microbes on Earth to make humans more fit for exploring space.  

Certain organisms are known to survive in extreme conditions. They are called extremophiles. One such crazy little character is a bacteria that can survive the onslaught of radiation. In space, humans won’t have Earth’s atmosphere to protect them against the constant radiation in space; Lisa believes that given a little bit of human ingenuity and time, we will be able to borrow this creature’s ability to withstand radiation.

Not so long from now, one of your own descendants might actually be a GMO living somewhere in outer space.

 

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

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