For years, humans have been exploring space and studying the moon to better understand it and now we are entering into a new chapter: creating civilization on other planets. The moon has been largely talked about in regards to civilizing it but, it’s possible the moon may just be a solar gas station for rockets on their way to Mars. Mars has become the new focus for the next planet for humans to inhabit.
While living on Mars will likely have some of the same challenges as the moon, Mars also presents new challenges. If humans are to actually live long term on Mars, they may have to make modifications to their DNA to make it possible. NASA is hoping to start crewed missions to Mars starting in the 2030’s, but the toll it will take on the astronauts initially involved may be overwhelming. They will be exposed to loads of high radiation, bone-wasting microgravity, and various other hazards for years at a time. NASA and other space programs have already been working toward finding ways of protecting their astronauts. Examples of this are adjusted spacecraft shielding and pharmacological changes in medicines for the astronauts. Even with all the health risks, when they return back to Earth, the astronauts should return with relatively good health. For those with the intent of indefinitely staying on Mars or any other planet other than Earth, it may be a different story. Experts believe that humans may need to make adjustments to their basic genetic blueprints if they want to stay in good health. Scientists have already begun testing ways to help humans better adjust to the conditions. Scientists have inserted genes from tardigrades, animals capable of surviving in space, into human cells in laboratories. The engineered cells have shown a greater resistance to radiation than normal human cells. There are strongly held convictions and ethical issues about adjusting human genetics for any reason. However, if we are going to send humans to live on Mars long term, it could be considered unethical to not prepare people to be able to withstand the harmful conditions. If we are able to harness this ability, it could also lead to the potential for us to travel further than Mars such as Jupiter’s moon Europa. For now, travelling that far is completely out of the question due to the strain it would put on their bodies. If we are able to make adjustments so our bodies can handle it, we could be able to explore Europa which is currently believed to be the best chance of discovering other life forms. Tardigrades and other microbes they are attempting to use to modify our DNA could not only allow for our survival, but could also help with terraforming. This raises more ethical concerns though, due to the thought that Mars may have hosted life at one point and still may. Many astrobiologists are against terraforming Mars in case there is native life on Mars believing it’s unethical and unscientific.
The potential for living beyond Earth is possible but still may not be as easy as some of us have been led to believe. While there is the potential for inhabiting other planets, there are still many obstacles and major ethical concerns in the way. This is not to say that it will never happen, but it may not happen as soon as anticipated. Let me know your opinions on all this in the comment section down below.
Wall, M. (2020, May 19). Colonizing Mars may require humanity to tweak its DNA. Space.com. https://www.space.com/mars-colony-human-genetic-engineering-tardigrades.html.