Modified humans: the most cost-efficient way to colonize space
By Dick Pelletier
Of course, no one can accurately predict how the future will
unfold, but if we examine technology advances forecast for the next 40 years, we
can create a plausible scenario of how the human species could transform into a
society ready and eager to develop the high frontier.
Why do humans need to alter their bodies before venturing into space? Moon
and Mars have low gravity levels, killer solar rays, and weather extremes
ranging from Siberian-like frigid nights, to boiling daytime heat. Unprotected
bodies risk cancer, tissue and bone loss, brain damage, and instant death.
While many of these risks could be reduced with bulky space
suits and underground or domed huts, the high cost of these protective measures,
just to cater to human frailties, makes most space trips difficult to finance.
Instead of trying to adapt the planets to humans, it costs far less to adapt
humans to the planets.
Granted, technologies to 'space-proof' our bodies enabling us
to be safe and comfortable in harsh environments do not exist today; but
positive futurists predict they could be developed by the 2040s.
So far, space colonization efforts have gained little public
support; but many see a changing world ahead. We begin our journey into this
world with focus on healthcare research. Scientists believe that by 2030,
medical technologies will make more diseases manageable, extending health and
nanotech advances over the next four decades could enable building products
inexpensively by mimicking the ways that nature creates plants, animals, and us.
Experts predict goods produced in this manner, labor-free with low cost
materials, will improve wealth in every nation state.
With concerns over health and failing economies removed from
the spotlight, by 2050, space is expected to take center stage. A growing number
of future watchers believe that a new era of world peace and prosperity will be
achieved as countries begin
efforts to explore the cosmos.
However, there are issues to resolve. Where will space colonists on
a distant world get air, food, and water? Or will their genetically-modified or
biologically-altered bodies even require these life essentials?
Nanotech expert Robert Freitas believes we may one day
eliminate the need for
lungs, making breathable air unnecessary. Others theorize it may be possible
to enhance human skin with radiation-shielding nano-materials. And in
Fantastic Voyage, author Ray Kurzweil cites a time when humans may not
need food; nanobots would energize our cells more efficiently than today's
system of eating food.
So, what can we expect as the future unfolds? Let's take a
glimpse at what life might be like in this fictional example of an Earth family
joining a work-free and commerce-free Mars colony:
"The Smith family, Randolph, 50; his wife, Alicia, 45; son
Mike, 11; daughter Sandy, 15; and Bradley, the life-like family robot, just
arrived via Virgin Galactic's faster-than-light-speed hyper-drive, making the
trip from New Mexico's Spaceport America to Mars' Ratan Colony, Clarke Field in
just 3 hours.
As incentive to move to the Red Planet, newcomers are
offered five-acres of land; an estate-like house built to their dreams, and
guaranteed affluence for life. The colony boasts amazing facilities, including a
Holodeck, which allows participants to be part of any historical or
future scene imagined.
The Smiths recently underwent
biological transformation to protect their bodies from the
harsh Mars climate, and were pleased that their 'human looks' were preserved.
Computer-controlled nanobots keep everyone's bodies in top condition, and
simulate aging in the children as they grow into adulthood.
Alicia, a dabbling artist, wants to create art to share
with friends back on Earth. Randolph can't wait to compete in inter-planetary
golf tournaments on the Holodeck. The kids just want to meet other kids and
continue raising intelligence levels with their new Martian style
Hawking recently warned; "It's important for humans to spread out into space
for survival of the species. All Earth life could be wiped out by a nuclear war,
runaway virus, or some other danger." Mr. Hawking, we hear you. By 2050,
migrations to the high frontier could be well underway.
This article appeared in various print publications and
on-line blogs. Comments always welcome.