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If you’ve always wanted to be a pioneer in extreme interplanetary travel and setting up shop on Mars, we have some bad news for you: It looks like the only way we might be able to colonize space is by printing versions of ourselves to live in these less hospitable environments. How do you “print” a person, you ask? Remember Dolly the cloned sheep? Well, it’s kind of like that.
Despite our enthusiasm for one day abandoning Earth for proverbially greener, literally more extraterrestrial pastures, there are possibly just too many hurdles to overcome. A manned mission to Mars, the most viable next frontier in terms of proximity, is fraught with dangers like space radiation, microgravity, and very real psychological implications. In the six months that it would take to get there and the subsequent six months it would take to return, humans would be exposing themselves to levels of radiation dangerous to the heart and nervous system. And that’s not even talking about trying to live in space for extended periods of time—we’re just talking about getting there.
Hence the idea of “printing.”
Scientists have proposed that we encode human genetic information in bacteria, creating a veritable spore that we can then infect another planet with. Though humans take a crushing blow during space travel of such distances, microbes (which can be laced with bacteria) can apparently survive the trip to Mars. Once delivered, the bacteria then creates the foundation for terraforming, slowly creating an altered biosphere, filled with all the oxygen, food, and human-friendly necessities imaginable. You know, in theory.
Looking forward to Mars 2.0: Earth Edition.
Photo courtesy of Nasa.gov.