Space & Astronomy
Mars colonists could be genetically modified
By T.K. Randall
May 23, 2020 · 6 comments
Living on Mars would be extremely hazardous to human health. Image Credit: NASA/Pat Rawlings
For future settlers, living and working on Mars could mean having to undergo genetic modification.
With the first ever manned mission to the Red Planet being as little as ten years away, scientists have long been working to understand the impact such a trip could have on the human body.
Even during relatively short stays aboard the ISS, bones, muscles and even eyesight can begin to deteriorate, while astronauts can experience a number of negative psychological effects.
Imagine, therefore, how much more of a problem it would be to leave Earth's orbit entirely and to spend months or even years traveling through the interplanetary void.
In addition to feelings of extreme isolation, future space travelers would also have to deal with the effects of increased exposure to deadly radiation.
Even on Mars itself, these same problems would still apply.
For a relatively short trip, it may be possible to get by, but for those looking to live on Mars long-term, more radical solutions are going to be needed to prevent serious side effects.
One such solution that is being considered is genetic modification - a field that has been progressing in leaps and bounds in recent years and could make it possible to 'enhance' future Mars colonists with an improved capacity to, for example, better withstand radiation exposure.
Such a concept is not without merit - scientists have previously succeeded in inserting the genes of tardigrades into human cells in a laboratory, making them more resistant to radiation.
It is not outside the realms of possibility, therefore, that this could also be done in living humans.
Whether or not such a procedure would be safe, however, is another matter entirely.
"If we ever get [to Mars], those are the cases where the human body would be almost completely fried by the amount of radiation," said geneticist Christopher Mason.
"There, it would be certain death unless you did something, including every kind of shielding you could possibly provide."
Source: Live Science
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