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Could we survive prolonged space travel? – Lisa Nip

Could we survive prolonged space travel? – Lisa Nip


Prolonged space travel takes
a severe toll on the human body. Microgravity impairs muscle
and bone growth, and high doses of radiation
cause irreversible mutations. As we seriously consider the human
species becoming space-faring, a big question stands. Even if we break free
from Earth’s orbit and embark on long-duration
journeys among the stars, can we adapt to the extreme
environments of space? This won’t be the first time that humans
have adapted to harsh environments and evolved superhuman capabilities. Not fantastical powers like laser vision
or invisibility, but physiological adaptations
for survival in tough conditions. For example, on the Himalayan mountains where the highest elevation
is nine kilometers above sea level, an unacclimated lowland human
will experience symptoms of hypoxia, commonly known as mountain sickness. At these altitudes, the body usually
produces extra red blood cells, thickening the blood
and impeding its flow. But Himalayans who have lived on
these mountains for thousands of years permanently evolved mechanisms
to circumvent this process and maintain normal blood flow. Cases like that prove that humans
can develop permanent lifesaving traits. But natural adaptation
for entire human populations could take tens of thousands of years. Recent scientific advances may help us
accelerate human adaptation to single generations. To thrive as a species
during space travel, we could potentially develop methods to quickly program protective abilities
into ourselves. A beta version of these methods
is gene therapy, which we can currently use to correct
genetic diseases. Gene editing technology,
which is improving rapidly, allows scientists to directly change
the human genome to stop undesirable processes
or make helpful substances. An example of an unwanted process is what happens when our bodies
are exposed to ionizing radiation. Without an atmospheric barrier
and a magnetic field like Earth’s, most planets and moons are bombarded
with these dangerous subatomic particles. They can pass through nearly anything and would cause potentially cancerous
DNA damage to space explorers. But what if we could turn the tables
on radiation? Human skin produces a pigment
called melanin that protects us from the filtered
radiation on Earth. Melanin exists in many forms
across species, and some melanin-expressing fungi use the pigment to convert radiation
into chemical energy. Instead of trying to shield
the human body, or rapidly repair damage, we could potentially engineer humans to adopt and express these fungal,
melanin-based energy-harvesting systems. They’d then convert radiation into
useful energy while protecting our DNA. This sounds pretty sci-fi, but may actually be achievable
with current technology. But technology isn’t the only obstacle. There are ongoing debates
on the consequences and ethics of such radical alterations
to our genetic fabric. Besides radiation, variation in gravitational strength
is another challenge for space travelers. Until we develop artificial gravity
in a space ship or on another planet, we should assume that astronauts
will spend time living in microgravity. On Earth, human bone and muscle
custodial cells respond to the stress
of gravity’s incessant tugging by renewing old cells in processes
known as remodeling and regeneration. But in a microgravity environment
like Mars, human bone and muscle cells
won’t get these cues, resulting in osteoporosis
and muscle atrophy. So, how could we provide
an artificial signal for cells to counteract bone and muscle loss? Again, this is speculative, but biochemically engineered microbes
inside our bodies could churn out bone and muscle
remodeling signaling factors. Or humans could be genetically engineered to produce more of these signals
in the absence of gravity. Radiation exposure and microgravity
are only two of the many challenges we will encounter in the hostile
conditions of space. But if we’re ethically prepared
to use them, gene editing and microbial engineering
are two flexible tools that could be adapted to many scenarios. In the near future, we may decide
to further develop and tune these genetic tools
for the harsh realities of space living.

100 thoughts on “Could we survive prolonged space travel? – Lisa Nip”

  1. Seems more logical to invest research into artificial gravity and more efficient radiation shields. That's just my two cents. Then no one could complain about tampering with human DNA. Probably solved.

  2. We can make energy from radiation? Fuck.. That would negate nuclear bombs, kill world hunger. There is no fucking debate there.. Do it now!

  3. Wouldn't it be better to concentrate all the efforts on developing artificial gravity and efficient barriers to radiations? In this way everyone would be able to travel through space, and not only those who have been genetically engineered.

  4. OMG I've been thinking of those funghi since 11th grade and wanted to be a part of that research ever since. Please wait for me scientists <3 It wont't be long <3

  5. Why must we change our genes? Can't we just coat the habitable zones of the space ship in these radiation absorbing fungi and have the habitable wings of the ship rotating to produce simulated gravity via centripetal force?

  6. To everyone asking why the people in the video are fat, here is the answer:

    The low gravity causes them to put on weight easier.

    JK, they spend all their time eating ice cream and writing blog-entries.

  7. The first commercial space flight tickets will most likely be priced per kilogram not per person, physics and economics will determine that, it'll have nothing to do with ethics. I can't wait to see the uproar among SJW's when that's announced.

  8. Political correct animation style—-No, prime condition human cannot be portrait as healthy muscular normal human but obese lazy fat fucks. Good job TED!

  9. The proprotion of discussions about the potential implications of human genetic altering in the comment section here compared to the amount of discussions on why the ficticious animated characters in the video are fat is why we're not in space yet. People have their priorities so so wrong.

  10. Might as well just throw this one out there since i can't create it, but a "living suit", that is living skin, that would have these properties you speak of, we have the tech to make skin/ears ect on dishes so do the same for a sheet that you can make, obviously this skin/suit would have to be one of the most flexible and toughest skin combination.

    That would react to these changes in atmosphere, when we figure out the gravity issue, that can be incorporated into the outside of the suit that would either give us our desired gravity on any planet, obviously we want earths gravity on all planets, then the living suit would adjust accordingly on it's own or by our hands with the estimations we come up with already.

    Well that is all i'll say but this is probably the route to go into, altering our gene's might cause more issues in the future than just creating a living suit that hopefully won't affect us by using it.

    It is a cool idea non the less, enjoy that one TED i was thinking about it for a while, credit would be great.

  11. One of the ethical arguments could be that through genetic engineering, someone is literally born to be an astronaut. How would you raise that kid?

  12. Wow, this video is full of factual inaccuracies and nonsense. This is more like an episode of Star Trek than a lesson.

    – Gene therapy has thus far been a catastrophic failure in humans- causing cancer rather than fixing disease.

    – I've never heard of a single serious scientific study about giving humans fungal abilities to produce energy. This sounds like nonsense out of a comic book, not science. The amount of physiological changes you'd have to make to a human to do this are way beyond anything we're remotely capable of.

  13. Jesus fucking christ people. You all COMPLETELY ignored the message and instead focused on the fucking cartoon characters? Are all of you that fucking brain dead?

  14. come on this is such an interesting topic that could lead to fun discussions and all everybody is commenting on is the fat cartoons?

  15. I have a question. how does the actual tanning process work? & how does it make skin darker? is the darker pigment a result of dying cells? I'm curious

  16. I love it. It bothers me that everyone is so worried about whats right in their own opinion, than whats better for the human civilization. Of course, they may be right anyway, but that doesn't necessarily mean we shouldn't do whatever it is anyway.

  17. This video is discriminating towards non fat non-male and non curly-haired people, every individual expressed is a fat female with curly hair. The fat curly-hair matriarchy is here.

  18. we can then engineer human to breath in space! as well as food energy from photosynthesis. that way we can live on mars as well as do not require suit

  19. The gravity issue is a non-issue or red herring. Bone and Muscle atrophy to a point in micro-gravity because you don't need Earth-tough bones and muscles in space, and it's only a problem once you land back on Earth. It wouldn't be a problem if you lived your entire life in space. The same is true for Mars. Your bones and muscles will deteriorate to where their comfortable in the Martian gravity, and you'll be just fine. You'd only have issue if you went back to Earth.

  20. Hmmm…according to the author, those who live at high altitude are the products of 'evolution'…yet how do we know they weren't designed to make adaptations to live that way? On the other she suggests that maybe science can fill in for 'evolution' and engineer human biology to live in space…isn't that DESIGN??? So if mere people can design, can't there be a designer that actually designed it all? Ted-Ed has a rigid platform of Darwinistic atheism at it's core so don't expect anything else.

  21. This is literally talking about how we could liVE IN ACTUAL SPACe and you hugs are wondering why everyone is fat

  22. The most troubling aspect of bio engineering humans is not fear of the unfamiliar or fear of competing with such people for jobs or resources.  You compete with lots of people already for jobs and resources and will be too old to be a direct competitor to a bioengineered person who will be born 20 years in the future.  You can get used to something new or even a new type of person.                                                                                 
    No, the most troubling aspect is whether or not this person is really a human (if you insert DNA from a fungus) or is really your child (if you mix and match the DNA of let's say 5-10 people to make the best possible combination.)

  23. Just in case if world war 3 occurs and nuclear weapons are widely used causing the earth to be inhabitable . Hence we can have space travel just like the tv series , The 100 CW

  24. I dont think this is going to work very well becouse 1: whot are the side efeckts of ad new gen
    2: our body is afeckted of rediation the hole time so whot is going to hapen if it "diseper"
    (We can survive the radiation from space, smockers are efected of twise as mach) (My eng=😞😖😂)

  25. All that extra weight in space would be a terrible idea. They'd never make the cut. Also… you get altitude sickness if you change altitudes too quickly, and don't adapt. Mountain peoples are better suited for this, but they're not magic.

  26. Meh looking for counter video. This is a one-sided argument, and that is fine as long as people acknowledge it and can remember the other POVs.

  27. I'm working on a way to fix these issues to as close as a negliigable point as possible, keep your eyes and ears open in the future for my breakthrough.

  28. I don't think TED Ed people read the comments below, just not worth their time save for a few ones. But why are people not aesthetically pleasing in this animated video (I mean they're fat)… kidding, talk about ethics!. What would people stay longer in space for if there's nowhere else to go outside the solar system that can be reached in a lifetime? That's why robots do the exploration, and are eventually going to improve, becoming better tools, and you may say they are expendable.

  29. do it – make our species split forever. Maybe we'll get a 2.0 humans that are not so cancerous us 1.0 – US

  30. Basically, if we can somehow make it so that the melanin in our skin to absorb the radiation from the sun and give off enough heat so that we can build a system in space suits to turn this energy to electrical energy to be used by the suit and some of the energy produce, will be stored in batteries for emergency of overnight use. Probably won't happen, but just a suggestion.

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