(From Motherboard) http://motherboard.vice.com/author/MeghanNeal May 29, 2014
Assuming human deep space travel turns out to be not just incredibly dangerous, but perhaps “crazy idiotic” and “laughable,” as Harvard biologist Gary Ruvkun put it, the tenacious dream of an interstellar civilization forces some out-of-the box thinking. What if, instead of rocketing humans to other planets, we made an exact copy on site?
Adam Steltzner, the lead engineer on the NASA JPL’s Curiosity rover mission, believes that to send humans to distant planets, we may need to do one of two things: look for ways to game space-time—traveling through wormholes and whatnot—or rethink the fundamental idea of “ourselves.”
“Our best bet for space exploration could be printing humans, organically, on another planet,” said Steltzner on stage at Smithsonian Magazine’s Future Is Now conference in Washington, DC this month.
Many of science’s brightest minds think that the only way to guarantee the long-term survival of the human race is to colonize other planets—problem is, we have no clue how to safely travel to Mars, let alone further into our cosmic neighborhood. By sending instructions on how to print ourselves to far-flung locales, we could skip the trip.
The “printing” idea starts out by encoding human genetic information in bacteria so that our DNA can hitch a ride to another planet.
“Once you propose terraforming, you might as well propose sending bacteria with human sequences. That’s not that crazy.”
“Maybe we will colonize other worlds not with astronauts in space suits, but with bacteria,” said Steltzner at the event. “Those considerations seem beautiful, fantastic. The printing humans concept belongs to Ruvkun, Church and others Havard Med Dept of Genetics. They think deep and forward.
Ruvkun told me that it is possible to encode segments of human DNA in bacteria and have it survive the trip to other planets. “Like using bacteria like computer memory,” he said. ‘It’s sort of like an iPod that you send to another planet. And the bacteria can store information very densely.”