Space travel may transform human beings, say scientists

Space travel may transform human beings, say scientists

Conquering space, the final frontier and staying on the planet Mars to begin with, are the dreams of humans. However, long-term space travel could result in creation of a new species of human beings, according to scientists.

Evolutionary biologist Scott Solomon told Business Insider that future human colonists in outer space might not be ‘humans’ at all. He said people living in space could evolve to be so different from people on Earth that they would be viewed as a different species.

Solomon said living in space could lead to evolutionary changes. The low gravity decreases bone density, which increases risk of a mother fracturing her pelvis during natural birth. So Caesarean deliveries would be a must, which according to Solomon, could “lead to larger heads in our descendants because they wouldn’t be constrained by the size of the birth canal.”

Obviously, a larger head with larger brain would make a major difference to the species. Today, the average human brain is 1,300 to 1,400 gms with many variations. Brain size alone is not related to intelligence or happiness. However, it is anybody’s guess how intelligent will be the new human species with much larger brains.

Another change that Solomon predicts is change of skin colour. He said humans may develop new types of skin pigments, like the melanin that protects us from ultraviolet sunlight on Earth. So future generations could have different skin colours, not seen in humans today. Such humans with skin colours not seen on Earth and with much larger heads would appear like aliens.

Meanwhile, some scientists have suggested that human genes be edited to deliberately create a new species capable of living in outer space. Kristin Houser writes in Futurism about a study by scientists in Poland. According to the research published in Futures from the University of Information Technology and Management in Poland, having a baby on Mars would be impossible for humans without reworking the DNA.

The researchers say that as the atmosphere of Mars is thin, the cosmic radiation poses a threat to development of foetuses and humans’ ability to reproduce. Exposure to microgravity causes bone loss and affects vision, according to the researchers. They also list immunosuppression, nervous system changes, hearing loss as the result of space travel. So, the researchers say that if human settlers on Mars want to start a family, they might want to tweak their DNA to be a little less ‘human.’

The researchers suggest using CRISPR technology. This is a tool for editing genomes, alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. The aim would be to genetically engineer humans to overcome hurdles in reproduction in outer space. This would result in a new human species. The researchers suggest we carry out research on potential effects of living in space or the Moon or Mars on human reproduction.

One might say there is a lot of time before women give birth in space. However, this may take place earlier than expected, may be in five years from now.

SpaceLife Origin, a start-up based in The Netherlands has announced its Missions Program 2020-2024, which concludes with the live birth of a human baby aboard a spacecraft located 250 miles above the Earth. SpaceLife Origin’s Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer. Egbert Edelbroek told The Atlantic that human settlements outside Earth would be pointless without learning how to reproduce in space.

The start-up has planned missions for five years to gain knowledge to prepare humans for off-world reproduction. These include sending human reproduction cells to space and the setting up of a ‘Space-Embryo-Incubator’ capable of fertilising and developing embryos in space.

The ultimate step is sending a pregnant volunteer and a team of medical professionals into space on a mission during which she’ll give birth to the first human to be take birth in space in 2024.

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