Since the invention of rockets — and possibly before — people have dreamed of traveling to other planets, and Mars in particular. We now have the Curiosity rover puttering around on the red planet's surface; but what if we wanted to go there ourselves?
That is a noble dream, and not to nitpick, but Mars is seriously inhospitable to human life. It's drier and deader than the Atacama Desert, it is colder than the Earth's poles (average temperature is chilly -63 degrees centigrade), its air is made up almost entirely of carbon dioxide, and it has very little gravity relative to our comfy planet.
Well, why don't we just tinker with the human genome a bit and engineer some humans to survive on that planet? That is what some have already asked, according to 21st Century Tech.
Harvard Medical School recently held a symposium called Genetics, Biomedicine, and the Human Experience in Space to start a conversation about how genetic engineering could be useful in helping humans to travel in space or live on other worlds.
21st Century Tech's Len Rosen asks if we could use genetic engineering to alter humans to survive solar radiation or the prolonged exposure to low gravity, and other stresses on the body.
"Could we alter our muscles and skeletons, change our diurnal circadian rhythm to match that of a different world, make our bodies handle greater extremes of heat and cold, and develop respiratory systems that function in low-oxygen or even the absence of free oxygen environments?" Rosen says.
Would it be possible to genetically enable humans to adapt living outside of pressurized environments, like living at the top of Mount Everest on Earth, or to deal with severe temperature swings, Rosen asks. Or would humans always have to wear protective suits on Mars?