How to change the humans who will live on Mars?

Humanity wants someday to go to Mars and perhaps in the future to terraform it, turning the Red planet into a more similar counterpart of the Earth. The head of the company SpaceX Elon Musk has stated that the first humans will be sent there in 2024. NASA is going to send an expedition to Mars of three people in 2033, after start and will go full speed to explore the moon. So close to the timing of some experts, of course, cause a common skepticism, but the main issue here is not even how much money vbuhali going to be the leading space Agency to develop technologies that will allow people to fly there.

Much more important is that we are not aware of the evolutionary consequences for the human body, which would be expected when moving to the Red planet. During an interview with Inverse, Scott Solomon, an evolutionary biologist from rice University shared his thoughts about how the genetic Fund of the earth affected by long-term relocation to Mars.

“As an evolutionary biologist, I’m most interested in the question: what if we do succeed? I don’t think to date there has been much discussion on the topic of what will happen to the people living in these colonies after a few generations,” — said Solomon.

Last year Solomon, speaking at the TEDx conference in Houston, raised the issue of those evolutionary changes that can with high probability to expect the first Martian settlers. Thus, in his opinion, instead of thousands of years of evolutionary processes and minor mutations the humans who moved to Mars, will vary with the speed of a roller coaster.

“The rate of evolution can be faster or slower depending on the potential benefits that may occur as a result of mutations. If people manifest a mutation that will increase their survival rate by 50 percent – this is the advantage, right? Therefore, these people will be able to pass on their genes with higher probability and speed than otherwise,” — said the expert.

Solomon notes that approximately after two generations, the bones of people living on Mars will become wider, the game adapts to the effects of Martian gravity, which is only 1/3 of the earth. At the same time, reduced gravity will make them more fragile, which in turn will lead to serious problems with childbirth, because the pelvis in women will break like matches.

Despite the large Martian expanses, people have to live in a quite concise and compact housing, which in turn will lead to the development of myopia (nearsightedness). As an example, Solomon causes some species of fish, who, living in a cramped underwater caves, generally lost the organs of sight. In addition, the researchers referred to the study, the findings of which indicate that in children, often spending time at home, there is an increased risk of the development of myopia.

The inhabitants of the red planet will be exposed to is 5,000 times stronger doses of radiation than in the ordinary course of life on Earth. Solomon said that is regards to severe outbreaks of cancer. The body can respond appropriately by giving people new skin pigment. To counter the UV rays here on Earth, the human body uses melanin, in other species it is responsible for the carotenoids. The inhabitants of Mars over time can develop a completely different pigment, which would enhance their protection against radiation.

It is possible, says the scientist, respiratory and circulatory systems living on Mars people over time will change too, having the opportunity to more efficiently consume the available oxygen. Such mutations have already been observed, the peoples living in the region of the Tibetan plateau, where the oxygen content is 40 percent lower than its concentration at sea level. In response to this body of Tibetans have developed a dense network of capillaries for better circulation. In addition, it can expand blood vessels to better supply muscles with oxygen.

One of the fastest expected changes in the organisms of people living on Mars will be almost a complete loss of the immune system. In a sterile environment without the presence of microorganisms to the residents may not have the body capable of fighting off pathogens. But it might not be so bad, says Solomon. An evolutionary biologist sees this as an opportunity to eradicate the disease, which now is no salvation.

Of course, no cost and no drawbacks. In this case, the reproduction between the Martians and earthlings will become impossible. Sex between people of the two planets, in the absence of the Martians immune system will become fatal for them. This, in turn, may impose artificial limits on how both populations can interact with each other and mingle. The inability to create interplanetary families and the transfer of children between parents who are on different planets, for example, work on the debt, will divide society even more.

Solomon is confident that these changes will occur relatively quickly. High level of radiation on Mars and the planet’s magnetosphere that would protect people will quickly do the trick. If in the normal case, children can be born with 20-120 genetic mutations, the radiation of Mars will be able to significantly increase these numbers of changes in the genes.

To accelerate the process of mutation and to prepare people to relocate to Mars, so their bodies have adapted much faster to the new conditions, we can artificially. Using the same technology for genome editing CRISPR/Cas9. But our current limited knowledge of the human genome as a result of random changes can result in unforeseen consequences. Nevertheless, in the future this technology may become our admission ticket for life on other planets.

“Why wait for mutations, if you can manually create them?”, — asks Solomon.

Another mechanism that could benefit the colonization of distant worlds the Solar system can be a so-called “founder effect” — the transfer of a group of individuals (individuals”the founders”) large populations only part of the genetic diversity of this population when settling new territory, because of a founder effect displacement of the “accents” of natural selection. The original and new populations may evolve in significantly different directions. For example, Mars is the most physically healthy and strong people can get offspring that are genetically more predisposed to physical strength than the people already living on Mars.

All this means that the Mask and other people who want to one day colonize Mars, should take into account the need for genetic diversity to provide the perfect balance to the possibility of further evolution of the population. According to Solomon, this will be sufficient to send to Mars about 100 000 people within a few years. And mainly this must be people from Africa, because it is the most extensive genetic diversity.

“If I were designing a human colony on Mars, I would like to have its population consisted of a hundred thousand people representing different peoples here on Earth”, — concluded the scientist.

I would like to believe that the architects of new worlds listen to these words.

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