Colonization Of Mars – A 500-Year Plan

This article by was originally published in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM).

SpaceX Dragon Capsule on Mars. (Image: Kevin Gill / Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

The Case for Existence

1. Assume that humans are the only species or entity with self-awareness of its own extinction.

2. Assume that existence is essential for any other goal/idea to be accomplished (“existence precedes essence”).

3. Therefore, humans who wish to accomplish any goal/idea should ensure the existence of our species, and all other species that enable our survival.

Proposed long-term goals of the human species:

  • Establish habitable environments in multiple star systems, to avoid extinction due to a cataclysmic event in one solar system.
  • Improve the ability of humans and other species to survive in spaced-based environments or on other planets.
  • Genetic engineering.
  • Requires a “do-not disturb” list for the human genome; regions that cannot or should not be altered.
  • Engineer mammalian insulators that can carry genetic payload safely.
  • Establish long-term safety, efficacy, and functional characterization of genomes which have been engineered.
  • Improved DNA damage detection and repair (vis-à-vis Deinococcus Radiodurans).
  • Protective technology (Nano-fabrication of radiation absorbers).
  • Achieve peaceful relations between nations or planets.

To accomplish these goals, the Mason Lab pursues an understanding of the human genome through a 50-year plan, with the final elements of the plan (of course) estimated to exceed the lifetimes of the founding members.

Phase 1 (2010-2020)
Experiments that complete the functional annotation of the human genome, specifically experiments that delineate base-by-base examination of those elements which cannot be changed, or those that are most flexible (tolerant of mutations). We will use comparative, evolutionary functional genomics and an examination of those human diseases that constitute the most aggressive deviations from normal biological function (such as aggressive tumors) to understand the genome. Early stages of synthetic and systems biology.

Phase 2 (2021-2040)
We assume that whole-genome sequencing and molecular characterization is common, cheap, and accurate. Thus, work is focused on methods for contextualizing common and rare variation and its affects on the human genome. Begin efforts on integrating new elements into mammalian genomes.

Phase 3 (Years 2041-2050)
Begin long-term human trial on the genome engineering.

Phase 4 (Years 2051-2060)
Test protected human genomes in space environments

Phase 6 (2060-2100)
Begin settlement of other planets and genesis of synthetic genomes

Phase 7 (2101-2150)
Expand new genomes to tolerate extremely cold/hot and acidic/basic environments

Phase 8 (2151-2300)
Send new genomes (panspermia) to begin seeding of Earth-like planets

Phase 9 (2301-2400)
Begin shipment of humans to these new worlds

Phase 10 (2401-2500)
Human settlement of new solar system, used as a model for future systems

Phase N (End of universe)
The hardest question – Determine if we should prevent the implosions/entropy death of the universe, or allow self-destruction in the expectation that life will arise again.

Genetic Preparations for Space Travel with Dr Chris Mason

Discovering and designing genomes for Earth, Mars, and beyond

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