Lisa Nip – TRANSCRIPT
So there are lands few and far between on Earth itself that are hospitable to humans by any measure, but survive we have. Our primitive ancestors, when they found their homes and livelihood endangered, they dared to make their way into unfamiliar territories in search of better opportunities.
And as the descendants of these explorers, we have their nomadic blood coursing through our own veins. But at the same time, distracted by our bread and circuses and embroiled in the wars that we have waged on each other, it seems that we have forgotten this desire to explore. We, as a species, we’re evolved uniquely for Earth, on Earth, and by Earth, and so content are we with our living conditions that we have grown complacent and just too busy to notice that its resources are finite, and that our Sun’s life is also finite. While Mars and all the movies made in its name have reinvigorated the ethos for space travel, few of us seem to truly realize that our species’ fragile constitution is woefully unprepared for long duration journeys into space. Let us take a trek to your local national forest for a quick reality check.
So just a quick show of hands here: how many of you think you would be able to survive in this lush wilderness for a few days? Well, that’s a lot of you. How about a few weeks? That’s a decent amount. How about a few months? That’s pretty good too. Now, let us imagine that this local national forest experiences an eternal winter. Same questions: how many of you think you would be able to survive for a few days? That’s quite a lot.
How about a few weeks? So for a fun twist, let us imagine that the only source of water available is trapped as frozen blocks miles below the surface. Soil nutrients are so minimal that no vegetation can be found, and of course hardly any atmosphere exists to speak of. Such examples are only a few of the many challenges we would face on a planet like Mars. So how do we steel ourselves for voyages whose destinations are so far removed from a tropical vacation? Will we continuously ship supplies from Planet Earth? Build space elevators, or impossible miles of transport belts that tether your planet of choice to our home planet? And how do we grow things like food that grew up on Earth like us? But I’m getting ahead of myself In our species’ journey to find a new home under a new sun, we are more likely than not going to be spending much time in the journey itself, in space, on a ship, a hermetic flying can, possibly for many generations.
The longest continuous amount of time that any human has spent in space is in the vicinity of 12 to 14 months. From astronauts’ experiences in space, we know that spending time in a microgravity environment means bone loss, muscle atrophy, cardiovascular problems, among many other complications that range for the physiological to the psychological. And what about macrogravity, or any other variation in gravitational pull of the planet that we find ourselves on? In short, our cosmic voyages will be fraught with dangers both known and unknown. So far we’ve been looking to this new piece of mechanical technology or that great next generation robot as part of a lineup to ensure our species safe passage in space. Wonderful as they are, I believe the time has come for us to complement these bulky electronic giants with what nature has already invented: the microbe, a single-celled organism that is itself a self-generating, self-replenishing, living machine.