Can you create the perfect astronaut by means of genetic engineering?
Being an astronaut is not easy - you need an extraordinary combination of courage, physical fitness, intelligence, ability to make decisions quickly and remain calm under the most intense pressure. Then you may take into space. Or maybe not. When NASA selects its first astronauts in the late 1950s, the agency pays attention only to the best military and test pilots, who were in the United States. The Soviet Union did the same, but pointed out that the astronauts must be no higher than 170 centimeters - to squeeze in a capsule "East" - and paratroopers as they had to eject from the capsule during re-entry. Unlike the Americans, in the USSR were female astronauts.
Since then, the space traveled and scientists, and engineers, and doctors. But throughout the 60 years of space exploration to all they had to meet the highest criteria of "quality." Take, for example, a set of astronauts in ESA, which took place in 2009. Of the six selected three astronauts were military pilots, and the fourth - the pilot commercial flights. In the interests of the other two astronauts were parachuting and climbing.
But, in spite of the selection of the best of the best, people still feel bad in space. We - the products 3, 8 billion years of evolution, which took place in a comfortable, an oxygen-rich atmosphere protected by a magnetic bubble (magnetosphere) from the harsh universe. Away from Earth astronauts cosmic radiation bombards them feel sick, lose muscle and bone mass, sight falls, and even the immune system is weakened as a result of zero gravity. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano told that he was amazed at how quickly his body changed for five and a half months on the orbiting International Space Station. "There is adaptation, which is similar to the transformation," he says. "Your legs are thinner, his face rounder - the body adapts to the new conditions of the norm."
He also noticed a change in his movements. "First you try to move horizontally, because you're afraid to face with something and because I've learned that all parts of your body move in different ways," he says. "After six weeks you will start to move again vertically - you adapt to the space you have celestial".
However, some adaptations are not enough. "Legs are not very useful in space," says Parmitano. "I would not have them cut off, but why not turn them into your hands? Two sets of hands would be useful in space, because you could hold on to the handrails and use the other hand to work. "
"The stabilizing tail would also be extremely interesting, because the three-point stability is better than two," he says.
As the astronauts and cosmonauts spend more time in space - a real record belongs to Valery Polyakov for the 437-day stay - and long-term missions are planned for the Moon and Mars, we have to rethink the space vehicles and space home to the astronauts were healthy and in shape. Screens protecting them from radiation, complex life-support system, as well as the artificial gravity - all this is a must for long flights. But what if, instead of trying to adapt the space for people, we could adapt the space for people?
"You can imagine how the future will look like a space man, and it is not shocking or surprising - this is what we can and should do," said Parmitano.
This topic was discussed at the annual seminar Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Huntsville, Alabama. Here space agency scientists, engineers and enthusiasts come together to discuss the future of the colony in orbit, spacecraft, and other tricks that will help humanity to find new wonderful worlds.
Neuroscientist Robert Hampson, studied the effect of radiation on the brain, headed by the working group on human adaptation. "It will take a lot of time and materials to terraform the planet, for example," he says. "But we could find a way to make people more attuned to lower gravity and a different atmosphere."
To some degree, as well as today's astronauts, future space colonists, probably will be elected on the basis of their suitability for long-term space flights. They may have good natural resistance to radiation, high bone density or a strong immune system. These features will be transferred to the next generation, which will be known only to the cosmos.
"If you take the young couple and the spaceship to form colonies, they will have children who will be adapted to the colony - and not to the world," says Hampson. "The parents decide to do so for the sake of posterity and future generations." Will take generations, and space people will differ from their terrestrial ancestors. But not much. Almost certainly they will have one pair of hands. "Evolution is slow," says Hampson. "The question is, how much we could push the evolution?".
To live in a bleak, barren, alien environment, for example, Mars, and even raise children - it's scary. But genetic engineering could overcome any moral objections. We could have used genetic engineering to create human embryos that are better suited to us a different planet. Now genetic engineering techniques used to combat hereditary diseases.
"It is a moral duty - to give a child any advantage that will allow him to not only survive, but thrive," says Hampson. "To live, to work, to be successful and healthy and give birth to their children and posterity."
Most likely, when people will start massively leave the Earth, we have to adapt to the new environment. Instead of searching for Earth 2.0, we could create 2.0 people. They might even be four arms and tail.
"It is interesting to think about how to live in an environment that is not limited to gravity," says Parmitano. "The chances of finding a second Earth is very small, but the thought of other conditions in which people can live, too attractive for me ... but it's me."