≡ Menu

Homo Stellaris: Space and Human Transformation

In the sixteen years I’ve been writing Centauri Dreams, I’ve often used written science fiction to illustrate points about our ongoing science discussions. This also gives me a chance to poke around in my collection of old SF magazines, always a pleasure, as I’ve been collecting them since i was a boy and they go back to the glory days of newsstand fiction, which extended well beyond SF to mysteries, westerns and the various other genres defined by the pulp magazines of the early 20th Century.

What a kick, then, to read a short story by Robert E. Hampson and find a starship named Centauri Dreams! Not only that, but Robert, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, gives me a nod by naming the orbital hub through which travelers pass in the story ‘Gilster Station.’ Thank you, Robert!

The story is “Those Left Behind,” which appears in the collection Stellaris: People of the Stars, a volume Hampson edited with Les Johnson. First published in 2019, the book now emerges in a new paperback edition from Baen Books. Hampson’s story is provocative, dealing with issues of human/machine augmentation that long-haul spaceflight may require. When humans reach the nearest stars, will they be human as we know the term, or an emerging branch of the species in charge of its own evolution?

Image: Wake Forest’s Robert Hampson, author and physiologist, who continues to explore the human response to space exploration. Credit: Wake Forest University.

The great question hanging over all this is whether there are human traits that would endure despite not just mental but physical transformation. We can imagine, as Hampson does, the reaction among those who will find augmented humanity a step too far. Here the question disrupts a family even as they look toward a colony at Proxima Centauri and ponder what it will take to get people there, all the while dealing with an emerging movement of those committed to ending human modification:

“You thought because I didn’t meet your expectation of a human — that I was bioengineered for low gravity — that I would be weak?” Sandy stood over the intruder, body language signaling anger and rage. “You argue about biological purity, about ‘unaltered’ humans, yet you live with modern medicine, vaccines, gene therapies and corrective surgeries.”…

“…simple spectrography,” Mace said, dismissively. “Diaminotoluene in the hair means hair color. Probably to cover the gray and change his appearance. Fine scars around the nose and eyes from plastic surgery — either vanity or to fool facial recognition. There’s a scleral scar and artificial lens in his right eye.”

Sandy practically snarled. “So, correcting your vision and changing your appearance with surgery is okay for you — just not for the people who are trying to give mankind a future?”

Some of us started reading science fiction in the first place because a good writer can pick up an idea like this and rotate it in and out of our present and into the future, forcing the big questions that technology enables, or perhaps demands. I know Robert Hampson from our encounters at conferences, the last one being the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop’s 2017 symposium in Huntsville, where he moderated a panel on human life off-planet and a working track on the role of security and intel in space. “Those Left Behind” reminds me why he has become a go-to guy for science fiction writers pondering just what homo stellaris will be.

Where Intelligent Life Goes

Stellaris: People of the Stars collects fiction as well as non-fiction essays on just the matters addressed above, the changes that expansion in the universe may force upon our species. Although not limited to authors at the event, the book draws on many discussions at the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop’s 2016 symposium, which was held in Chattanooga, TN, and included a working track on the transition of the human body and mind to the interstellar environment. I should note that the organization now does business as the Interstellar Research Group at irg.space.

Over the years I’ve gotten to know many of the authors within the volume, but I’ve only had one chance to meet Sir Martin Rees, Britain’s Astronomer Royal, though to be honest that was just a brief introduction at one of the Breakthrough Starshot meetings. But revisiting Robert Hampson’s story gives me a chance to talk about Rees’ essay “The Future of Intelligent Life in the Cosmos,” from the same volume. Rees is intrigued, to say the least, by exobiology, and is the author of On the Future: Prospects for Humanity (Princeton 2018), among numerous other books and essays.

Image: Martin Rees, astrophysicist, cosmologist and Britain’s Astronomer Royal.

One of the changes that have become apparent about public perception of these matters in the past two decades has been the commonplace discovery of exoplanets, which have gone from being a curiosity to an almost daily news item, their wide range a matter for comment and speculation. Rees speaks of this as being ‘morale-boosting,’ which it is to those anxious to identify other life in the universe, but a biosignature, perhaps detectable in a few decades, is a different thing entirely from a technosignature, and it’s an open question how humanity would react to the latter.

The challenge of estimating human reaction is that, as the Hampson story explores, humanity itself may be on the cusp of change, which may include not only genetic modification but augmentation through artificial intelligence. Thus biotech looms large as we make decisions about the relationship we choose to have with technology. In space, we continue to mine data from Cassini, New Horizons and Rosetta, even as we look forward to exploring the Jovian satellites through missions like the European Space Agency’s JUICE, with its intention of orbiting Ganymede, and NASA’s Europa Clipper. A key fact: We’re getting better and better at robotic exploration. The question this forces is inevitable. Says Rees:

The next step will be the deployment of robotic fabricators in space that can build large structures. For example, giant successors to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will have immense gossamer-think mirrors assembled under zero gravity. These structures will further enhance our imaging of exoplanets as well as the cosmos. Will there be a role for humans?

Good question. Rees readily admits the powers of human observation (“It cannot be denied that NASA’s Curiosity, trundling across a giant Martian crater, may have missed startling discoveries that no human geologist could overlook”). Even so, he makes the case that the startling advance of machine learning coupled with sensor technology, not to mention the cost differential between manned and unmanned missions, means that the case for manned spaceflight is less clear-cut than it was a few decades ago.

While we explore the question, the near-term future for humans in space hinges on what Rees calls “inspirationally led private companies” who will engage in manned launches in terms of competition. This is a high-risk environment that reminds me of the early days of aviation, when records fell almost daily as pilots pushed their equipment higher and faster than ever before. Such adventurers may well wind up reaching other nearby worlds, where the changeable nature of humanity comes into play:

The pioneering explorers will be unsuited to their new habitat, sustaining a more compelling incentive to adjust themselves compared to those of us still on Earth. They will harness the powerful genetic and cybernetic technologies that will be developed in future decades. These techniques will be heavily regulated on Earth as well as on prudential and ethical grounds; however, settlers on Mars will exceed the clutches of regulators. Therefore, we should wish them luck in modifying their progeny to adapt to alien environments, as this might be the first step toward divergence into a new species. Ultimately, it will be these brave space voyagers who lead the post-human era.

I think about this often in terms of longer-range missions into the interstellar medium. Assume for a moment not one but many habitats in space, O’Neill-type arcologies housing larger and larger numbers of people in coming centuries who find the prospect of an engineered vs. a natural world enticing. If this happens, surely one day the idea of simply untethering from the Sun’s gravitational influence will strike some as irresistible. Imagine such a worldship nudging out into the Oort Cloud, to exploit the abundant cometary resources available there, and perhaps eyeing passage to another star. How many centuries will it take for such beings to diverge from our species?

So that maybe we don’t reach another stellar system and meet the aliens. Maybe the explorers who, after centuries or millennia, arrive at Wolf 1061c or Proxima Centauri b, are the aliens, at least in terms of their differentiation from ourselves.

Staying Human Closer to Home

We may have to make changes to our physiology if we plan to create a long-term human presence in space, by which I mean actual people living full-time off-world, either on planets or in the kind of structures I’ve mentioned above. And we can’t rule out the possibility that the advantages of electronic intelligence will simply be too great, causing our descendants to largely continue interstellar exploration with robotics of a kind so advanced over what we have today that they do indeed seem magical. I imagine Arthur C. Clarke would be right at home with a prospect like that.

It’s striking, then, to see how swiftly we dismiss some of the major issues regarding humanity in space when we look at what does seem feasible soon, a trip to Mars. In particular, I can remember a presentation that Robert Hampson makes about gravity and its lack. Mark Shelhamer, in the same Stellaris volume, goes into the question, a good thing because we’ve only begun to examine it seriously. It’s simply not enough to put astronauts in an environment like the ISS and take notes. We also have to ask what happens to humans longer-term, colonists on Mars, say, who plan to live out their lives in 0.38 Earth gravity. Does the body ultimately adapt or not?

Some of these issues have already come up in manned spaceflight close to home. We’ve learned about problems in visual acuity from extended ISS stay, evidently due to fluid pressure changes that move toward the back of the eye over time, distorting the shape of the eye and distorting its optical properties. Shelhamer (Johns Hopkins) is well suited to examine the questions this raises. He has worked with NASA on sensorimotor adaptation to spaceflight; he also is an advisor to the commercial spaceflight industry, and has served as chief scientist for the NASA Human Research program at JSC.

Image: Mark Shelhamer examining zero-g aboard NASA’s ‘vomit comet,’ a modified Boeing jet that simulates the weightlessness of the ISS. Creedit: Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Gravity is, of course, only one of the factors he discusses in his essay, but I focus on it because research on the matter seems so crucial and yet relatively unexplored. We do know to provide exercise venues for orbiting astronauts to maintain bone integrity and cardiovascular function as well as keeping muscles tuned for eventual return to Earth. But we still have much to learn, including the vital question of bone mineral density as it applies to bone strength and the interrelation between the two in internal structure.

ISS astronauts get about two hours of exercise per day per person (which also offers a mental break from the various demands of the job). So you could say that the ISS is a laboratory in gravitational studies impacting physiology, but we need a better one. Delivering a debilitated crew to the Martian surface serves no one well, so we need to find out whether the spacecraft that carry our astronauts there will need artificial gravity. We can induce the effect by rotating the craft in a variety of configurations, but it clearly has a huge impact upon design. How much artificial gravity do we need?

What we need in the short term is an orbiting laboratory that can explore these questions, a structure designed specifically to treat human issues in space and in particular questions of human performance under varying levels of g. In an ideal universe we would manage artificial gravity by using constant acceleration to target, with a turnaround at the halfway point. Lacking that capability, our best bet is rotation inducing a centripetal force proportional to the distance from the rotation axis. We’ll want to vary artificial gravity through spinning.

That, of course, raises a slew of other questions. Just how much artificial gravity do we need, and at what level? It’s possible that parts of a long-haul spacecraft might rotate while others do not, so that the crew might sleep, for example, in zero g and work much of the time in an artificial gravity environment. We know that many of the problems of bone and muscle mass loss could be avoided through artificial gravity, but we don’t have much experience with the vestibular system involving the balance organs in the inner ear, which is used to orient a person within inertial reference frames.

We don’t, in other words, know enough about rotating environments, and we need to explore how to mitigate their effects. We also need to consider, as Shelhamer goes on to point out, that weightlessness may have beneficial effects of its own. Here the psychological effects of space upon the crew may come into play. The famous ‘overview effect,’ explored by Frank White in his book of the same name in 1998, may partially be the result of the zero gee environment. It would be useful to explore possibilities that involve rotating only part of the spacecraft, providing living quarters that include artificial gravity for at least part of the astronaut working day.

The prospect of physiological transformation is something we also need to learn a great deal more about. Let me quote Shelhamer on this intriguing point:

Faced with a dramatically different environment — altered gravity level, unfamiliar atmospheric pressure and composition, different magnetic field, to name a few — evolutionary processes in the human organism might be accelerated. Under such circumstances, epigenetic alterations might take on a larger role in the heritability of acquired traits. Whatever the mechanism, settlers will likely be faced with the problems inherent in rapid change — only this will involve changes to the humans themselves. The possibility that some of these changes will be undesired — and could interact with other changes to the overall detriment of the person — should not be ignored.

Do we acknowledge such adaptive alterations if they begin, or do we try to slow them down? In other words, do we willfully let our species branch into new physiological directions, or do we try to mitigate the possibility? Here we also need to look at the role of genetic modification, about which we need to be cautious. As Shelhamer says, “in a space-settler setting where there is precious little backup capability (you can’t go home again) even subtle second-order effects can take on outsized significance.”


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mike Serfas August 21, 2020, 15:10

    I’ve commented on this previously ( https://www.centauri-dreams.org/2020/07/17/the-cathedral-and-the-starship-learning-from-the-middle-ages-for-future-long-duration-projects/#comments ). In brief, we would be looking for a gradual sympatric speciation event with non-lethal selection via voluntary withdrawal from the space environment, substantial genetic diversity to draw upon (i.e. based in Africa), smaller size/stature, and engineered resistance to catastrophic events that can occur in space.

    The term I prefer for this new species is _Homo apotelesmatis_, which can be interpreted as Fated Man, Fulfilled Man, or Man Influenced by the Stars.

  • ljk August 21, 2020, 15:10

    Gaia Versus the Anthropocene: A Conversation with Dorion Sagan

    Greg Ruggiero interviews Dorion Sagan

    August 19, 2020

    A SINGLE STRAND OF coded protein packed in a fatty shell — so small that it is almost immune to gravity — is changing humanity as we know it. What is happening? If we approach this question from the perspective of ourselves alone, it appears that we are under attack. But there are many other perspectives to consider, including the planet’s, whose interconnected ecosystems may be far more “intelligent” than our technologies.

    Could it be possible that the latest version of coronavirus is the biosphere’s response to the accelerating mass extinctions, habitat destruction, and global warming that we have caused?

    To explore this matter further, I conducted a series of conversations with ecological theorist Dorion Sagan, whose work poses fresh, post-Neo-Darwinist views of life, evolution, sexuality, climate change, microbiology, and consciousness.

    The result is a work in progress entitled Laniakea: The Next Step in Gaia Theory, from which this interview is excerpted.


    To quote:

    In your writings, you assert that the biosphere engages in self-regulation and self-defense. Seen from this perspective, could it be possible that the web of life released a bit of coded protein in order to stabilize and protect itself from a “pox called man”?

    Actually, Nietzsche said something more subtle, and applicable to viruses. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885), the fire hound says that Earth has skin diseases, one of which is man, and Zarathustra says, yes, and another is the fire hound. Viruses can kill but they are also deeply involved in evolution. Marine viruses kill algae with microskeletons whose calcium later becomes parts of rocks, such as the yellow limestone of the Great Sphinx at Giza, whose rock was precipitated by such algae. It is silly to think that the RNA coronavirus, COVID-19, thought to cause a (sometimes acute) flu-like respiratory syndrome was released “in order to” battle the alleged human ecological plague that has raised Earth’s temperature and given it a fever. But that may be its effect, nonetheless. So, too, our reactive atmosphere, with its fires, fireflies, and tranquil sea breezes, is the evolutionary result of toxic gas excreted by mutant photosynthesizers. But that is not why they did it.

    As Nietzsche also pointed out, it should not be inferred that the function of something in the present means it had a similar function in the past. The paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, a respected colleague of both my parents, independently made the same observation. Over evolutionary time, paws with claws clinging to bark can become fingernails picking at plastic on a pill bottle; flaps of skin that once scared predators can become wings. And as Lynn Margulis showed, lethal pathogens can become cell organelles, whose smooth functioning is required for our health and well-being.

    From the perspective of Gaia theory, what role do viruses and COVID-19 play?

    Viruses play a very important role in the history of the biosphere, and of life’s evolution on Earth. For example, it’s estimated that some 30 percent of the human genome has a viral origin. This includes the placenta, the defining feature of mammals such as ourselves. A retrovirus is considered to have been necessary for the evolution of the placenta in sheep. Scottish molecular biologist Stephen D. Bell argues that there are striking likenesses between viruses such as HIV and Ebola, and viruses that infect organisms called archaea that grow in geothermal springs. Despite a vast difference in environments and two billion years of evolution between archaea and humans, the viruses hijack the same set of proteins to break out of infected cells.

    In the same way that some bacteria are now recognized to have beneficial effects within our bodies, we are now also becoming aware of positive attributes of viruses. Bell also argues that viruses were key to the origin of cells with nuclei — that is, all cells on Earth except for the prokaryotes archaea and bacteria, which don’t have nuclei. Eukaryosis — the evolution of the first amoeba-like animal cells from a symbiotic merger of archaea and bacteria — may not have been possible without a viral liaison. By themselves viruses carry just a piece of DNA or RNA with a protein coat. They are not always bad. Some even kill other viruses. One study shows that canine distemper virus kills HPV-infected cervical cancer cells.

    Lynn Margulis believed that bacteria are not species because they trade genes all the time and do not obey the biological species concept, which originated in the context of sexually reproducing animals. Viruses, basically pure genes, represent vast repositories of transposable information, for both good and ill. They remind me of the media and its incessant spread of ads, factoids, and memes.

    Language is a virus from outer space, William S. Burroughs claimed. When we consider a deadly virus, such as the reputed one thought to cause COVID-19, we must keep in mind that they have multiple effects. This virus, for example, is exposing the consequences of neoliberal measures that deprive societies of ventilators and hospital beds, as well as more basic social services. It is exposing the vast amounts of pollution, not just carbon dioxide, which is still less than one percent of our atmosphere, but auto and jet exhaust and factory fumes, which poison the air and trap heat as part of the “healthy” economy.

    Finally, it is exposing the fragile fiction of many civil rights, suspended during a supposed state of extreme exception. What emergency measures, instituted without public consent during a health crisis, will we be willing to resist once the crisis subsides? There are already accounts of data collection in elevators with face recognition tech, of surprise emails telling people to self-quarantine, of drones blasting social distancing messages. Are we willing, in the name of health no less, to allow our lives to become a bad Black Mirror episode?

    Life on Earth is not a matter of individual capital accumulation but of collective living in biodiverse environments. The reduction of pollution coinciding with the imposition of social distancing opens our eyes to the continuous nature of ecological destruction in mainstream political programs blindly projecting growth on both the left and the right.

    On the other hand, the shutdown of the “non-essential” economy and curtailment on movement peel away the pretense of the ruling classes and their states, whose lust for autocracy and penchant for centralized surveillance and control unhealthily double down on human hubris and remove people further from the sustaining force of diverse ecological connections.

    • Alex Tolley August 22, 2020, 15:24

      Sagan’s words come perilously close to implying agency in bacteria an dviruses. I am sure he did not mean this. What we see is simply the result of various dynamic processes.

      For example, humans have agency when we “exploit resources”. Viruses however, do not have agency. So when we say they exploit X, we mean that there is differential reproductive rates when viruses are exposed to X.

      It was groups giving the Gaia hypothesis agency via the Earth Goddeess that resulted in the woo-woo religion that some groups adopted. Lovelock certainly did not intend for this interpretation to happen. I suspect it is the human tendency to imbue agency that makes us “connect the dots to concoct conspiracy theories”.

      • Thomas W Hair August 23, 2020, 16:09

        Knowing that brevity is the soul of wit… yeah, what Alex said!

  • Gary Wilson August 21, 2020, 16:59

    A very interesting interview but could you give more detail to the comment ” This virus, for example, is exposing the consequences of neoliberal measures that deprive societies of ventilators and hospital beds, as well as more basic social services.”? Who, specifically are you referring to here?

  • Christian G August 21, 2020, 17:13

    You might as well say a rock structure practices self-defense when miners break into a water-filled cavity and drown. The pandemic is a completely predictable outcome of known biological principles combined with human choice.

  • Alex Tolley August 21, 2020, 17:38

    The human species is already on the cusp of gene engineering itself. Currently, germline engineering is banned, although some experiments have been done. But as we gain experience with somatic engineering, initially to treat genetic diseases, this will change. Just a Big Pharma moved from developing drugs for real diseases and moved into “lifestyle” drugs, I see the development of engineering our progeny as almost inevitable. There will be no equivalent “Butlerian Jihad” against germline engineering once we have good control over how to design the changes.

    This will happen on Earth and no doubt in human societies in space. I don’t see any sort of “natural” selection, but rather directed changes, that in some populations may even result in speciation.

    However, as John Lewis has pointed out, dismantling asteroids and building space habitats will create far more living space that can possibly be acquired by living on other planets in the solar system. Those habitats will be as terrestrial as we like, so there is likely to be little evolution beyond what is already happening on Earth. Genetic engineering for certain traits will be the main driver of evolutionary change.

    To reach the stars with technologies we can foresee, it seems to me that low energy approaches are the best means, preferably with fast, but tiny vessels. Machine “life” will be far more suitable for exploiting the resources of the galaxy,. If humans are to be part of this, I suspect it will require mind downloading, or more likely, embodied human mind simulation to do this. Such entities will no longer be biologically human, although their minds will be descendants of our minds. It is possible that such entities may even be the natural colonizers of our solar system, rather than biological humans in engineered habits.

    For some, this will be the stuff of nightmares, for others, the use of technology to liberate human minds to achieve the freedom to explore space.

  • Dimjo August 21, 2020, 18:42

    As we have evolved over millions of years to “fit” our environment, the instantaneous (evolutionary point of view) change in environment of space, moon, Mars, asteroid bases, radiation, diurnal cycles, etc. will demand a likewise “instantaneous evolution” solution aka genetic engineering. Especially in mitigating radiation injury and zero G. I envision private companies “specializing” in this field. It might be more effective/efficient to adapt the human genome to zero gravity than to engineer/ build artificial gravity vehicles and habitats. Why do you need legs if you will spend your entire life in zero gravity? 4 arms would be more useful in zero gravity. Do you really want body hair clogging the air filters? Depression from isolation? etc etc etc…

    • Alex Tolley August 22, 2020, 15:13

      I seriously doubt this. Suppose that Musk gets humans to colonize Mars as he hopes. There is almost no way to preadapt humans to Martian conditions by genetic engineering. We don’t even know where to start, and each generation is at least 15 years, so human genetic change in the population will fall behind technology.

      We already can build huge structures on Earth. I see no reason to believe that we cannot do the same in space. The hard things are closing the life support loop to reduce needed mass inputs. Whatever we change with human genetics over the longer term, we cannot change the basic requirements of living systems, so we might just as well build for current environmental requirements as much as possible, which will allow the slow, more measured changes we might want to be tested over time with somatic engineering.

      While I have no doubts that humans will alter their genes, I suspect most changes will be to get ahead of their human competitors in things that we culturally value – like physique, attractiveness, etc.

      • tesh August 23, 2020, 4:45

        “While I have no doubts that humans will alter their genes, I suspect most changes will be to get ahead of their human competitors in things that we culturally value – like physique, attractiveness, etc.”

        I find this insidiously frightening.

        I wonder how far this will go. In particular if one was to master temporary somatic, permanent somatic as well as germ line changes. For example (outrageously/controversially), would there be surges in the eskimo phenotype, a spike in red hair or something completely different – green skin and orange hair…. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. Would there be music festivals where everyone was required to be a shade of blue? Would there be genetic cleansing – within nations initially (voluntarily or otherwise…) – where all “births” are engineered to be >1.8 m tall, x colour, x build, sex, etc (disposing of the offending phenotypes after the fact is of course plain barbaric and wasteful…). Frighteningly, there are nations/entities that would merrily go down this road if the tech was available.

        Tis a real Pandora’s box. I believe we will go ahead with genetic engineering (primarily for medical purposes) but maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t pry open this box any further than that (I realise this hope flies against the very essence of such a box).

        • Alex Tolley August 24, 2020, 9:20

          We already alter our bodies with cosmetics, hair coloring, skin color (tanning, dyes), features with cosmetic surgery. We increase strength via training in gyms. We attempt to increase intelligence by various means, including music to fetuses, education, better environments, etc. If we accept all this now, why would somatic engineering, especially routine, easily reversed procedures, be a problem?

          Germline engineering is no more problematic than selective breeding, something we see constantly, although it is described very abstractly. We also allow aborting fetuses with genetic or unviable diseases. We also use genetic testing to reduce the transmission of genetic defects. This is the acceptable version of eugenics that we practise.

          I see certain lines of germline engineering will be acceptable once we can be sure that we are able to do it well.

          What is problematic is the introduction of new genes for certain traits subtle or non-subtle, that have already caused Europe to ban such foods. Subtle engineering might allow better DNA repair to improve radiation resistance for space colonists. Unsubtle changes might include adding any number of physical animal traits that are just cosmetic or enhance performance. But again, our resistance to such changes is embedded in our culture, which will change. Much as we now accept the use of cosmetics as normal with women, and increasingly with men, the relatively recent acceptance of sexual preference and even sex changes (all unacceptable or illegal when I was young), I think we will accept that genetic engineering of the human body for a variety of reasons. While Brave New World is a dystopia, there are other options that are more like utopias.

          Think of futures described by Cordwainer Smith as one possible branch.

          • tesh August 25, 2020, 7:33

            Though I am very skeptical of a Utopian world where such tech is commonly used, I am comforted by the certainty that extensive/broad application is likely far into the distant future – possibly hundreds (if not thousands) of years hence.

            Maybe by then we will have gained enough wisdom to use it appropriately…

  • Law Wong August 21, 2020, 23:08

    Peter Watts has the right idea. Various interesting technologies with major impacts on the human condition are likely to mature before cheap, simple interplanetary settlement, let alone interstellar travel. The society colonizing the planets will in all probability be very different from our own.

  • Michael Fidler August 21, 2020, 23:29

    A little dreamland, what may be the earliest new humanoid (get use to it, the women do not like the word men) will be on the boring 8th continent. Plenty of fuel, sun and water will make the moon the prime target in the near future(next 100 years). Low gravity will cure the aces and pains of the common man and make for giants to evolve. Solar power, Lithium power banks and Thorium fission plus Helium 3 fusion reactors. The lunar top soil has been broken up so much by impacts that the boring company could just build a kilometre wide drill to go from lava tube to lava tube. This eventual creates the super lunar malls with billion humanoid condos. Just how fast can a 1G cruse-ship reach the moon if energy is not the problem??? 1G halfway turn 1g to landing a Starship on the moon, 4 hours? The moons area is larger then Africa and may have huge quantities of rare earth elements and billions of years of meteorite impacts. Think about it, from the dark side of the moon.. O’ and we already have in place the way to filter the contagions from earth.

    • Alex Tolley August 22, 2020, 15:03

      For a richly envisioned, well thought out, depiction of near future societies on the Moon, I recommend Ian McDonald’s Luna novels.

    • Mike Serfas August 22, 2020, 20:13

      I had to try the calculation … I hope I didn’t mess anything up. You said “how fast _can_”, so I’ll use minimum lunar perigee 356400 km minus Earth equatorial radius 6378 km (lazy Wikipedia lookups) = 350000 km. I’ll neglect transverse velocity on either end because we’re going straight there like no sane rocket has ever flown; a 0.23 degree shift in trajectory makes up for it with 0.003% cost. That gets us 1.750E8 m for a half trip at 9.807 m/s^2. Time = sqrt(2 * 1.750E8 m / 9.807 m s^-2) = sqrt (3.569E7 s^2) = 5974 s. Double that and we get 3.319 hours.

      • Michael Fidler August 22, 2020, 23:11

        Mike, thank you for the calculation, at least I was not too far off! I did have a little help thou with some interesting points;

        How Long Does It Take To Get To The Moon?

        “However, it was the first-even unmanned mission to the Moon that was the fastest. This mission was known as the Soviet Luna 1 probe, which completed a flyby of the Moon in 1959. This basic, but pioneering probe was launched on January 2nd and flew past the Moon by a few thousand kilometers on January 4th. It only took 36 hours to make the trip, therefore traveling an average speed of 10,500 km/hr.”
        “By far, the fastest mission to fly past the Moon was NASA’s New Horizons Pluto mission. This mission had a speedy launch, with its Atlas V rocket accelerating it to a a speed of about 16.26 km per second (58,536 km/h; 36,373 mph). At this rate, it only took 8 hours and 35 minutes for it to get to the Moon from Earth.”


        “The The Apollo program was initially planned based on the assumption that direct ascent would be used.”
        I was surprised to find that there was another version planned of the Saturn launchers, the Saturn C-8, which increased the number of engines on first and second stage to eight. I remember hearing about the Nova rocket back in the early sixties but both of these were shelved when the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR) was chosen.

        So could Elon Musk’s upper stage, being refueled in orbit, make the trip that fast or just how fast could it reach and land on the moon. I read that they are planning a stripped version with wider landing legs for the NASA competition for lunar landers. They only would need three or six of the vacuum-optimized Raptor engines on the stripped version for direct ascent from earth orbit. Could there be a better way in the sense of a cruise-ship/aircraft model for carry a large number of people to the moon quickly?

  • Brett P Bellmore August 22, 2020, 10:11

    I have to admit to being totally stonkered that we have still not built an orbital partial gravity research facility to determine what the effects will be. I once did a stab at designing one, and determined that a single Falcon Heavy launch would be sufficient to loft it, and estimated the total cost at something like 250 million US dollars. (Assuming it was private sector, of course, not your typical gold plated NASA effort.)

    I can understand Musk not footing the bill, (yet?) he takes the perfectly reasonable position that he’s providing the transport, why should he have to do ALL the more metaphorical heavy lifting. But you’d think Bezos would, both their plans require this information.

    Even assuming the future is O’Neill colonies, if biology permits you’d want to run them at less than full 1 G, for purposes of structural economy.

    I see germ line genetic engineering both enabling and motivating our expansion into space: Not only would engineering for variable gravity and higher radiation tolerance help our expansion, I could see colonies being motivated by the desire of groups to explore the possibilities of genetic change, free from Earthly conservatism.

  • Astronist August 22, 2020, 11:23

    Rees “makes the case that […] the case for manned spaceflight is less clear-cut than it was a few decades ago.” On this key point the Astronomer Royal is wrong: the case is as clear as it always has been.

    • Alex Tolley August 22, 2020, 22:43

      Regardless of the longer term perspective, are you really arguing for the proposition that in an industrial age, that the need for human labor for construction is not diminished than it was in the preindustrial period? One can argue that for any given project we need less human labor than it used to require. One can also argue that we just use teh same amount of labor and construct more things.

      Longer term perspective. Species have managed to exist for millions of years without requiring constant expansion into new environments. There is no a prior reason humanity cannot do the same, confined to Earth. Arguably we could even reduce our footprint on much of the planet, restricting ourselves geographically using technology to expand living space within smaller land surface areas. Constant expansion is not a requirement, albeit one that has historically reduced pressures because of our cultural, rather than biological differences.

      Although we cannot protect the planet from every possible catastrophe, we could have a very long future that relies on machines to be the sole agencies off-planet (e.g. Asimovian robots, Dickian Androids) with humans restricted to Earth, perhaps with a greatly reduced population.

      I don’t share this idea of the future, but I also don’t assume constant human expansion as a necessity, just a “choice” that our violent history has demonstrated. Constant expansion is particularly a feature of our recent colonialist past. It is fortunate that we are unlikely to be displacing other intelligent species in space, but that just removes one contemporary barrier to expansion. One wonders if we would still act as Bradbury’s Martian colonists, displacing the Martians, just as the we displaced the indigenous populations on Earth.

      Given our current technological limitations, it will be important to manage to stabilize our position on Earth, because any exit of humans off-planet is going to involve just the tiniest fraction of the current population. A viable Earth will remain one of the most important resources for space colonists, both biological as well as technical, for the foreseeable future.

      • Brett P Bellmore August 23, 2020, 14:06

        The problem with this vision of the future, is that the only way it happens is with either enforced poverty, or a police state. Either don’t let people afford leaving the Earth, or don’t let people leave the Earth.

        Either approach has, shall we say, *implications* beyond whether we leave the Earth.

  • Geoffrey Hillend August 22, 2020, 17:48

    The moon is too close to have to worry about a lack of gravity. It doesn’t take very long to travel to the moon. It’s only the many months of time of an astronaut in zero G environment that the bone and muscle mass lost become a problem. What I like to know is there a constant G force without a constant acceleration at relativistic speeds. For example, the protons in the proton beam of the LHC have seven thousand times their rest mass at full power at 7TEV. I assume that these protons experience a higher gravity. They also experience length contraction according to special relativity. I read someone online that at 86 percent of light velocity, an object will experience a constant two G’s without acceleration. At 95 percent the speed of light, gravity slows down by one third like on the surface of a neutron star. If this is correct, then somewhere below 86 percent the speed of light lets say 70 percent as a rough guess, a spacecraft and it’s occupants will experience a constant one G without any acceleration as long as they keep that same constant speed?. I am not a physicist so I don’t know if that is correct. If it is it would be nice to see that exactly calculated. At that speed space debris colliding with the spacecraft at relativistic speed will be a problem and not zero G.

    Logically, it’s better not to have to adapt to a zero G environment because we have the technology to avoid a long duration in low gravity and long term living on Mars might still be many decades away. The first visit might be only for short term. How fast astronauts get there of course is important. The spinning of the ship will be needed with conventional propellants with a low specific impulse.

    It makes more sense to me that consciousness evolves faster when we try an overcome difficult and unsolvable problems than be forced to adapt to more hostile environments that we are not biologically designed to be adapted. We have to accept the limitations of the body and work with them with logic that our DNA is an “optional” adaption to the environment, so to force the body to adapt to a less than option environment will result in a less than optional function of the body and it’s organs since our bodies are designed that way, for the DNA can’t change the environment, e.i., there is a physics to the body and it’s adaptation to Earth, the environment.

  • Henry Cordova August 22, 2020, 19:40

    Maybe we’re just over-thinking this.

    When I was a kid, growing up on the shores of Tampa Bay, one of my uncles was a crab fisherman. Blue crabs were extremely plentiful back
    in those days, so common that they were a nuisance to anglers, they would steal the bait from your hook almost as soon as your line hit the water. But they were plentiful and nutritious, and a man could easily feed his family and generate plenty of extra income from his catch to feed many others as well.

    My uncle, like all his fellow watermen, would pull his traps out of the Bay, select all the males, and throw all the females back in to the water. This way, he assured us, there would always be blue crab for tomorrow’s fishermen. I don’t know enough about crab biology to know if this sort of conservation really helped maintain their populations, but at least his heart was in the place. He was harvesting a surplus, not exploiting the environment. And his business model was not based on ruthless efficiency.

    If we really want to find a single, simple solution to all our societal problems, how about this:

    Stop fishing with dynamite.

  • Abelard Lindsey August 23, 2020, 12:01

    Modifications for space living will be mostly adaptations to zero-g and radiation resistance. Zero-g is really bad for our current physiology. The effects of Moon and Mars gravity is unknown, but is likely to be generally bad as well. We need to research and understand all of the relevant molecular biology and figure out what changes can be made as our bio-engineering capabilities increase. Same is true for radiation resistance. Increase self-repair and possibly quad DNA (four stranded rather than two stranded) are possible modifications.

    Assuming no propulsion science breakthroughs (FTL, wormholes), going to the stars will involve uploading the genetics and identity (engrams) of humans into molecular memory and sending that to the stars, along with the cybernetic manufacturing package necessary to independently recreate a techno-industrial infrastructure from scratch. Once created, new bodies, based on synthetic biology, can be grown to the genetic and engram specifications in the molecular memory in the starship seed. Then the settlers walk free in their newly grown bodies on the new planet.

    O’neill style habitats and biship rings also will use synthetic biology for their biomes.

    In all scenarios, space requires bio-engineering and synthetic biology.

  • Robin Datta August 23, 2020, 16:34

    Adaptations to interstellar travel and existence by humans will need group cohesion and individual compliance with selflessness.
    The many aspects of modified behavior, both in “civilized” humans and their selected animal species, are a salient feature of domestication.

    One of the most consistent physical features in all domesticated species including humans is a reduction in brain size when compared to the wild kin. This is postulated to be due to a decrease in the need for the survival skills and behaviors found in the wild kin that are operative in predator avoidance and resource (food, shellter, mates) acquisition.

    In humans the decrease in brain size began between 20K and 10K years ago, around the advent of agriculture and societies. Domestication is more advanced in those cohorts of humans that have lived in hierarchical societies for longer periods of time: the non compliant were disruptive and therefore mostly eliminated over millennia from the societal gene pool.

    It won’t do if a substantial section of the population on a generation ship disregards a general directive such as for universal mask usage. The presence of such disruptives could be due to a selection bias inherent in the willingness to migrate to a wilderness, and in others because of the absence of the winnowing effect of a civilization.

    Some combination of selection techniques, gene manipulation and behavior modification will be needed to reduce the likelihood of disruptive behaviors.

    • Ron S. August 24, 2020, 9:55

      Are you seriously proposing breeding a sub-species of humans to be slaves, and to be happy being slaves? That’s abhorrent and on a par with many totalitarian regimes that would love to do this to their populations to keep them compliant. An interstellar objective is no excuse, and indeed there can be no excuse.

      • Alex Tolley August 24, 2020, 22:38

        That is not what Robin is saying. Human brain:body size ratios did decline after we gave up a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. As something similar happens to domesticated animals, the temptation is to indicate that human domestication once we achieved a safer, more routine life style with agriculture and cities is the cause of this change. We have compensated for this with cultural achievements including education and tool use.

        It is likely the case that to avoid requiring a harsh, authoritarian society in a worldship (w/wo Heinleinian throw offenders out the airlock) that some sort of education/conditioning may be necessary. Religions do this using various carrots and sticks to enforce compliance. There are obviously other approaches that we can use, such as gene modification to alter behaviors, although drugs in the water or food supply might be easier in this instance.

        • Ron S. August 25, 2020, 9:03

          “That is not what Robin is saying.”

          Are you sure? There are some provisos in Robin’s text but not nearly enough to remove the concern.

          “…gene modification to alter behaviors, although drugs in the water or food supply might be easier…”

          Alex, are you serious? Am I alone in thinking that this is abhorrent? It is population control pure and simple. If humans cannot be acculturated to closed environments the stars may not be for us.

          However I believe we will mature sufficiently to do so, without these violent behavioral interventions.

          • Alex Tolley August 25, 2020, 13:11

            Ron, I am not sure you are thinking this through. We already take a wide range of drugs to affect behavior. Some are voluntary and lifestyle enhancers, others coercive to such as those used in institutions to reduce the difficulty of dealing with “patients”.

            Then there is the inadvertent chemical modifiers in the water supply – from lead and mercury that impact cognitive development and behaviors, to compounds that mimic hormones, causing feminization with attendant behavioral changes.

            Then we have our coercive social systems, from educational methods – punishment to social coercion of adults and punishment. We used to chemically castrate sex offenders and homosexuals (Alan Turing committed suicide to avoid that). It used to be said that the food in prisons was laced with drugs to reduce libidos, although I have no knowledge of the truth of that.

            So with all these options that we currently do, you are seriously appalled that we might need to use any of these techniques, including gene engineering, to ensure that inhabitants of woldships and space colonies don’t impact the lives of the rest of the population.

            If you don’t think means of coercion are important, look at the damage caused by those refusing to wear masks and socially distancing themselves in the current pandemic. Compare the progress of Covid-19 in the US to other countries where compliance was far better.

            • Ron S. August 25, 2020, 19:36

              I believe that your reference to voluntary vs coercive behavior modification is the critical point. As part of socialization we all learn to modify our behavior as we mature or move to a place with different cultural norms. That is voluntary. The secret police threatening my family unless I modify my behavior is coercive. As you’ve noticed I strongly oppose coercive behavior modification.

              People who opt to join a generational starship don’t really need to be coerced since they are of that mind, at least at first. Of course people change. Bad behavior can be managed as it is managed in any society: social pressure to begin and escalated as necessary to various levels of punitive measures by democratically appointed authorities. Think police, courts, jails etc. The really bad cases could perhaps be placed in suspended animation, if it exists.

              Pharmaceutical or physical (including violent) measures to achieve a better outcome is coercive and I oppose these, and I believe that any society, including that on a starship, should oppose and exclude these measures.

              As said, people change and bad behavior is to be expected. Future generations may democratically choose to change the mission entirely. Free people have that right. Previous generations or the home civilization must not in any way reach across the generations to coerce behavior, even to maintain the original objective. That, to my mind, is also unacceptable coercion.

              Genetic engineering is a sticky point. You suggest modifying future generations to “acceptable” behavior to preserve the original mission objective. That is coercion as well. Indeed genetic engineering of the germ line is always of this kind. At some point we’ll have to cross that bridge and come up with a sensible process by which “coercion” of the unborn is minimized. How? I have no idea.

              • Alex Tolley August 26, 2020, 12:12

                As part of socialization we all learn to modify our behavior as we mature or move to a place with different cultural norms. That is voluntary.

                This view depends on where you are within the norm. As each society or group sets its norms, some will always be towards the edges. Normalization can then become coercive. (“Change your behavior, or else…”).

                (…)social pressure to begin and escalated as necessary to various levels of punitive measures by democratically appointed authorities. Think police, courts, jails etc.

                At what point does voluntary become coercive in your example? What is “democratically” in reality? History, even contemporay events, is replete with examples of coercive actions. It is very hard not to find coercive actions in almost any social situation.

                Pharmaceutical or physical (including violent) measures to achieve a better outcome is coercive and I oppose these, and I believe that any society, including that on a starship, should oppose and exclude these measures.

                And yet, likely impossible. Is it not better to use pharmaceutical methods that physical ones? The dystopia of Brave New World is often contrasted with the dystopia of 1984. Funnily enough the recent tv miniseries was written about with titles implying it was a utopia. Viewpoints change since I was a lad. Is putting granny is a facility voluntary or coercive. If she is drugged to keep her passive and reduce staff effort is that voluntary or coercive? I would say in both cases the answer is yes. So the children are in fact being coercive, but absolving themselves with the idea that it is “in her own best interests”.

                Future generations may democratically choose to change the mission entirely. Free people have that right.

                I suppose it depends on what you mean by “free to change the mission”. It is rather hard to turn around in a starship and return to Earth. Like shipwrecked people, they descendants must make the best of the situation they find themselves in.

                Genetic engineering is a sticky point. You suggest modifying future generations to “acceptable” behavior to preserve the original mission objective. That is coercion as well. Indeed genetic engineering of the germ line is always of this kind.

                We have all been modified by our inheritance. Ancestors have selected mates for a variety of reasons, even if unknowlingly it is to increase the reproduction of their genes. There is evidence that social and political affiliations are associated with brain differences.
                As a thought experiment, suppose that certain groups only selected mates from within their group to reduce deviancy? If that wasn’t enough, what about cloning to try to create as uniform a group as possible? Neither of those is gene engineering, except in the widest sense. If brain differences ar even partially genetically determined, then what is teh issue with engineering the genome to improve the probability of the desired brain type? After all, we know selective breeding works with dogs, so why not humans? To turn around teh original dystopic message of BNW, dogs have done very well being selected for. If human society is more cooperative and effective, improving outcomes, why shouldn’t we select for those traits, even with engineering to reduce the sense of being outside the social norm? I don’t see it as coercion as there is no forcing the individual to change. Arguably it is even better than the individual taking pharmaceuticals to “fit in better”, however voluntary that may appear. The Twighlight Zone episode “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” explores this.

                • Ron S. August 26, 2020, 19:08

                  Alex, this is rapidly reaching an impasse. I’ll reply but I don’t think I can add much beyond this for now. Apologies for not quoting passages from your text but it’s becoming unwieldy.

                  You say societies can become coercive. True. Coercive societies can also become non-coercive. Well, duh. Yet you imply (if I understand you correctly) that because a society can become coercive that coercion is acceptable. To me, at least, it is not acceptable.

                  Pharmaceutical measures make a person less “human”. Shunning, jailing and other limited punitive measures against laws etc, while damaging to the person, leave the person intact. They can choose to change or not. Modifying the person eliminates choice to conform or not. In my opinion that is unacceptable coercion.

                  When you refer to constraints such as that free people can’t alter the starship’s trajectory, well yes but so what? I want to fly but I don’t have wings. Constraints of all kinds are universal. However when you deliberately introduce constraints on those with no say in the matter, the original crew’s descendants, you bear a great responsibility. It is easy to interpret this as coercion. Details matter so I won’t offer a pat answer on this one.

                  When two people make like the birds and bees throughout almost all our history they are undertaking a non-directed program of genetic engineering. They have no control of the outcome. That is changing. Directed determination of an offspring’s attributes, whether minor or major alterations removes the pleading of “innocence”. It is a great responsibility with enormous consequences for the new humans thus created. That can be seen as a form of coercion, especially for greater modifications such as behavior. We aren’t there yet (obviously) for which I’m glad since we have no idea of how to deal with so that it is fair to those offspring (or entirely new creations).

        • Mike Serfas August 25, 2020, 9:07

          Sci-fi movies commonly show people thrown out of airlocks, yet this does not reform the offending flesh, but rather commits it (and some air) to remain rebellious forever in the depths of space. The most primitive shipboard societies will resort to executing their prisoners and throwing them in the recycling tanks. As the journey continues, they will advance to cooking them directly for much-needed protein, and in time, thanks to the lack of microorganisms, they can learn to omit the cooking. By journey’s end (albeit not the destination star) their appreciation of sport, culture, and cuisine may have matured to the point where they can skip the execution, and indeed the trials.

          More seriously, the science of island zoogeography can be applied to humans on starships – we just prefer not to because we wouldn’t like the answers. There are ways to invalidate these assumptions, such as 3-D printing fresh copies of a competent crew with the right attitude every few years, but such expedients might be prone to breakdowns of their own.

          • Alex Tolley August 25, 2020, 13:00

            My use of the Heinlein idea of throwing offenders out the airlock (without a suit) is shorthand for a zero tolerance society and summary execution. It is extreme authoritarianism, whatever the politics of the society.

            A worldship may be harder to damage than a ship, but with suitable technology and knowhow, it can be sabotaged or systems gamed, antisocial actions that will need to be constrained. I have no doubt that many options exist, and recycling is definitely going to be preferable than expulsion.

            In the movie “Snowpiercer” (and tv series) I don’t recall any suggestion about recycling people, but it must have been needed.

    • Mike Serfas August 24, 2020, 11:23

      I think you’re following an old and treacherous path with that reasoning. If you suppose that evolutionary changes in the last 10-20k years have altered both human brain size and human behavior, it leads you to think that races that diverged before that time (most of them) will have had different outcomes. I am not aware of any evidence for this proposition. To the contrary, racially heterogeneous populations have been closely studied for “IQ genes” for more than 20 years, and the outcome ( https://www.nature.com/news/smart-genes-prove-elusive-1.15858 ) remains at best extremely weak, and I should say still unconvincing. It’s as if there _are_ no genes for IQ. Searches for genetic basis of violence and other anti-social behaviors have produced quite a number of infamous false alarms, yet at this point I’m aware of nothing we can really use. The common explanation for this is “emergent phenomenon”, which is the secular way of talking about a soul, with a comparable level of scientific detail. What we do know is that growth mindset teaching, telling people that everyone can learn and it’s just a matter of putting in the effort, actually works.

      • Robin Datta August 25, 2020, 22:43

        Ethnicity could be a consideration for generational starships just as here and now the bar to higher education is different for East and South Asians than it is for “caucasians”.

        No matter what methods are implemented, the longer the mission and the smaller the population, the more critical disruptive behaviors would be.

        • Mike Serfas August 26, 2020, 10:24

          Robin: I’m not sure how you’re interpreting those statistics, so just to be sure about this — we see some definite advantages for several Asian countries in scholastic achievement and measured IQ. We also know that researchers doing GWAS studies have not been able to pick out genes from mixed Asian+Caucasian populations that would influence intelligence. We know that culturally, Asian countries have been influenced by Confucius, who is often credited with instituting standardized tests to screen candidates for government office, a trend that persisted in China and nearby countries for over two thousand years. We know that China, Japan and Korea have year round (11 month) schooling, and that Chinese children live in dread of the day of the Gaokao that will shape their future. Now to be sure, the U.S. has long relied successfully on civil liberty (at least for some) to compensate for technical deficits, and I’m not looking to take a political position on this topic here; I will only say that the statistics you show are entirely consistent with cultural trends that could probably be reproduced in any willing shipboard population within a few years, certainly a few generations.

          Diversity is nonetheless a vital consideration for space missions – genetic diversity if you are looking to send a robust gene pool to facilitate evolutionary adaptation to unforeseen environments, and cultural diversity to help the population stay connected with their stored data and future communications from the mother planet.

  • Robin Datta August 23, 2020, 17:59

    Let us remember that we are direct descendants of some lungfish that clambered ashore almost uncountable moons ago, so far back that it is no longer reckoned as an ancestor in our genealogical trees. And we say of the branch of the lungfish tree that gave rise to land animals, that it is extinct, because there are now no members of its kind. Yet we are amongst its diverse progeny.

  • ljk August 24, 2020, 12:55

    Where are all the chatty aliens? The Berserker Hypothesis:


  • ole burde August 24, 2020, 14:41

    Is it possble to talk about human adaption without relating to Cultural adaption ? When faced with a new chalenge in a new invironment ,Humans often have prooved capable , in 2-3 generations ,( better than even insects !) of inventing at completely new culture which can meet the chalenge head on . Many well documentet exambles of this can be found in recent history…..on the other hand genetic changes in humans have been slow for at least the last 30,000 years ..so perhaps we belong to a species for which genetic evolution has become a SECONDARY mecanism

  • charlie August 24, 2020, 16:22

    Why don’t we just cut out the middleman here, and go with good old fashioned cryogenics ? The appeal is obvious; you simply take the object that you wish to send on a long-term voyage and you find a way to freeze it without ice crystal damage and vola !! You arrive intact and aside from any possible damage due to radiation and cosmic rays you arrive there and are defrosted.

    I would assume that an organism that has been frozen, in whatever fashion that would best serve its revival, would be perfectly immune to all the ravages that go on during the voyage. As to whether or not a new gravitational environment could be a showstopper for newly arrived earthlings at their destination, perhaps the solution might be to periodically ‘revive’ (if you will) a person such that their biological constitution is returned to the status that a person has as if they had lived their entire life on earth. Thus you are never truly adapting to your environment but you are revitalizing yourself to your earthlike constitution.

  • Michael Fidler August 26, 2020, 9:45

    This is why the moon is going to be the place to evolve and develop any population that wants to go interstellar. We need someplace that is near to earth but has low gravity but not zero gravity, where interstellar starships can be built in orbit. This would keep a large group of humans that deal with the problems of living in space. This would have to be an open society that keeps a forward advancing policy without being overlying restrictive. The big problem is improving conditions for the general population on earth so support is maintained. A condensed version of the development of the Auto industry for space exploration with the eventual outcome of you and I be able to afford a private vehicle in space. This is the only way to develop an industry in space to have some high desire that is obtainiable by a large part of the population not just the rich or specialist.

  • Geoffrey Hillend August 26, 2020, 14:53

    I made some mistakes in my post. I left out the word time. The sentence corrected: At 95 percent the speed of light, gravity slows time down by one third like on the surface of a neutron star. Also the word “optional” should be optimal. Our DNA design is optimal for Earth’s environment.

  • Wojciech J August 27, 2020, 4:49

    I know that there is at least one minor project listing genes beneficial to space colonization and travel, Next Big Future website did cover it once. The issue is likely to be controversial, and I think some larger settlement of space would be required first before serious debate.

  • Michael Fidler August 29, 2020, 20:45

    he biggest tech revolution of the 21st century isn’t digital, it’s biological. A breakthrough called CRISPR gives us unprecedented control over the basic building blocks of life. It opens the door to curing disease, reshaping the biosphere, and designing our own children. This documentary is a provocative exploration of CRISPR’s far-reaching implications, through the eyes of the scientists who discovered it, the families it’s affecting, and the genetic engineers who are testing its limits.