A new idea for colonizing space: 3D printing humans on other planets
For the time being, space travel is still difficult and impractical, not to mention the health problems that occur. But what if we can send bacteria with our genetic code instead and use it to 3D print humans there?
"Our best bet for space exploration could be printing humans, organically, on another planet," Adam Stelzner, the Curiosity rover's lead engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said during a conference this month.
The concept basically starts out by encoding human genetic information in bacteria so that our DNA can be used to 3D print humans when we arrive on another planet. Since many scientists believe the only way to guarantee the long-term survival of the human race is to colonize other planets, so if we could print humans there, we could skip the trip.
"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."
This sounds absolutely crazy. The idea comes from Gary Ruvkun, a biologist at Harvard and others Havard Med Dept of Genetics. "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."
But who is going to do the reassembling on distant planet? Maybe we can wait for the terraforming scenario of the DNA-carrying bacteria which reassembles naturally through organic processes. Or using 3D printers and robots?
"The idea of 3D printing is, something's created out of matter at the location, just with the information. And that's kind of what we're talking about here," Steltzner said. "That kind of feels like a very fancy 3D printing to me."
On earth we have already been able to print out human parts and organs, but biotech geneticists believe that we can even print alien life here on earth. US biologist Craig Venter is developing a "digital biological converter" device that works like a cosmic fax and can transport a digital DNA file to a new location, at the speed of light, and recreate the original lifeform there. So if it works here, could it work the other way around?
Steltzner believes printing humans, organically, on another planet is more realistic than sending people out there.
"This is completely speculative," said Steltzner. "But it doesn't require you moving faster than the speed of light, and it doesn't require infinite amounts of energy."