TECH

Nasa Engineer Proposes Printing Humans On Other Planets

13/06/2014 11:24 BST | Updated 13/06/2014 11:59 BST
Andrew Rich via Getty Images

As long as we don't blow ourselves up or kill the Earth before we get a chance, it would seem obvious that humanity will one day explore other planets.

Trouble is, that's really, really difficult.

Even getting to Mars, which is the equivalent of popping next door in space travel terms, is totally beyond our capacity at the moment, whether that's down to radiation poisoning or just the likeliehood of going totally crazy on the 18-month journey there and back.

So Nasa might have a better idea. Let's not send humans, let's send printers and make humans when we get there.

This crazy-sounding idea is proposed by Adam Steltzner, lead engineer for NASA's JPL Curiosity Mars rover mission.

Steltzner said at the recent Smithsonian Magazine 'Future is Here' conference in Washington DC that the idea is at least as practical, if not more so, than sending space ships through wormholes (which another Nasa bod also proposed this week).

"Our best bet for space exploration could be printing humans, organically, on another planet," he said according to Vice.

The mechanics are necessarily vague at the moment, but would involve encoding human genetic information in bacteria which can survive long rides in space, and then using that code to clone a human from scratch on arrival.

Steltzner clarified that the idea is not his but relies on ideas from the Harvard Medical Department of Genetics:

"Maybe we will colonize other worlds not with astronauts in space suits, but with bacteria," said Steltzner according to Vice.

"Those considerations seem beautiful, fantastic."

Fantastic is the word - currently we can't even build a structure on another planet with robots let alone building a human. But it's worth considering as we gaze into the far future of space travel, and think about something resembling a human is going to go on that journey. At the very least, travelling to other stars encoded in bacteria DNA doesn't violate any known laws of physics. Travelling there via 'warp drive' or other currently fictional travel system does.

Other ideas for exploring hostile worlds include sending robots that can connect with virtual reality systems to make humans feel as though they are on another world - though the inevitable lag involved would seem to make that impractical. Or we can just man up, build a radiation shield and get our asses to Mars the old fashioned way.