Apr 15, 2017

Why you might start hearing about genetically modified astronauts

Terry Renna / AP

Don't take my word for it — check out this piece that posted today from MIT Technology Review, that shameless clickbait factory. No, it's not something that's happening right now, and the piece doesn't give any evidence that NASA is actively considering it. But it is something that a few scientists are starting to think about — because it might be a way to solve some of the health hazards of long-term space travel:

  • You can't send people to Mars without radiating them to a crisp.
  • That's one of the biggest problems to solve if people ever want to visit Mars, other than how to physically get there.
  • But what if someone could be genetically re-engineered to be radiation-proof?

Yes, but: Where to begin? It's a long way off, sort of far-fetched, and it raises all of the ethical concerns scientists are already worrying about with gene editing. But some futurists say they should make an exception for space travel. "You can't send someone to another planet without genetically protecting them if you are able to," said Weill Cornell Medicine's Christopher Mason, one scientist who's thinking about it. "That would also be unethical."

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