Elon Musk and NASA have the ambition to colonize Mars by 2030, but can such a remarkable achievement come at drastic costs?
This is the question raised by the evolutionary biologist Scott Solomon about how the future of the Red Planet will look.
"I do not think there was nearly as much discussion about what will happen to people who live in the generations of these colonies later," he told Inverse.
Mr. Solomon, from Rice University, has a number of predictions about the evolutionary changes that the first settlers from Mars are likely to experience and believes that only two generations will be needed for these mutations.
"Evolution is faster or slower, depending on how much advantage a mutation will have," he said.
"If the people living on Mars have a mutation that gives them a 50 percent survival advantage, that's a huge advantage, is not it?" And that means that these individuals will transfer these genes at a much higher rate than they would otherwise have.
The professor thinks that one can develop thicker bones to overcome the effects of gravity on Mars, but said the reduced force could make bones more fragile.
He added that the colonies would become closer, develop a new tone of skin to adapt to the higher levels of Red Planetary radiation and have thicker capillaries to move the blood more efficiently.
The last and greatest mutation would see people who are not living on Earth to lose their immune system because they live in a sterile, micro-organism-free environment that could be lethal if they come into contact with people on our planet carrying disease or disease.
The evolutionary biologist went so far as to suggest that people sent to colonize Mars in the future should better prepare for the life of the Martian planet using the CRISPR gene engineering technique that allows researchers to easily modify DNA sequences and change the gene function.
"Why wait for this mutation to happen if you can go in and do it yourself," he said. Mr. Solomon also highlighted the need to consider the "founder effect" – the loss of genetic variation that occurs when a new population is found by a very small number of individuals of a larger population – when it is decided that humans will form a new colony on Mars.
"If I designed a human colony on Mars, I would like to have a population of hundreds of thousands of people with representatives of every human population here on Earth," he said.
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