Friday, September 17, 2010

Cyborgs on Mars

In the September issue of Endeavour, senior curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Roger Launius takes a look at the historical debate surrounding human colonization of the solar system and how human biology will have to adapt to such extreme space environments. . .

If humans are to colonize other planets, Launius said it could well require the "next state of human evolution" to create a separate human presence where families will live and die on that planet. In other words, it wouldn't really be Homo sapien sapiens that would be living in the colonies, it could be cyborgs—a living organism with a mixture of organic and electromechanical parts—or in simpler terms, part human, part machine. . .

The possibility of using cyborgs for space travel has been the subject of research for at least half a century. An influential article published in 1960 by Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline titled “Cyborgs and Space” changed the debate. According to them, there was a better alternative to recreating the Earth’s environment in space, the predominant thinking during that time. The two scientists compared that approach to “a fish taking a small quantity of water along with him to live on land.” They felt that humans should be willing to partially adapt to the environment to which they would be traveling.

“Altering man’s bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments would be more logical than providing an earthly environment for him in space,” Clynes and Kline wrote. . .

Grant Gillett, a professor of medical ethics at the Otago Bioethics Center of the University of Otago Medical School in New Zealand said addressing the ethical issue is really about justifying the need for such an approach, the need for altering humans so significantly that they end up not entirely human in the end.

“(Whether we) should do it largely depends on if it's important enough for humanity in general,” Gillett said. “To some extent, that's the justification.”

Read the full article titled, Cyborgs Needed for Escape from Earth in Astrobiology Magazine from which these excerpts were extracted.

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