Can Humans Genetically Modify Ourselves To Live On Mars?

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Humans could probably genetically modify themselves to live on Mars, according to the astronomy blog Universe Today.

“Can we adapt Earth life to live on Mars?” Fraser Cain, an astronomy blogger, wrote in Universe Today Tuesday. “It turns out, our toughest life isn’t that far off. During the American Society for Microbiology meeting in 2015, researchers presented how well tough bacteria would be able to handle the conditions on Mars.”

“In other words, under the right conditions, there are forms of Earth life that can survive on Mars right now,” he wrote.

Scientists found some species of lichen, fungi and algae could probably easily be genetically modified to survive on Mars. Species of lichen, for example, have already survived a simulated Martian environment. Such organisms could one day be used to make Mars more Earth-like through a process called “terraforming.”

The non-profit X Prize foundation has even been considered offering a $1 million dollar prize for the first team to genetically engineer an Earth-based single-cell life form that can grow under the pressure, temperature, and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels of Mars.

Harvard University’s medical school recently held a symposium entitled Genetics, Biomedicine, and the Human Experience in Space which seriously examined the possibilities of genetically engineering humans for spaceflight.

“If we are able to change humans to live on Mars, we can probably do the same with other worlds,” Cain continued. “Image a far future, where human colonies on different worlds are adapted to survive there, using a mixture of technology and genetic manipulation.”

The biggest problem for such genetic engineering is that gravity on Mars is only 38 percent of Earth’s. This means that almost all terrestrial life is adapted to comparatively high gravity, which cannot easily be altered. Current human bodies could be tricked by Mars’ into thinking they have too much blood in circulation as it would be more evenly distributed throughout the body, causing adverse symptoms. Bones would also naturally thin in low gravity and muscles would atrophy as they wouldn’t have to work as hard.

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