Human Enhancements in our Race for Space
Since the beginning of man's existence on this earth, the night time sky has held awe and wonder. The questions of what may exist have long been pondered and are chronicled throughout the written history of our species. Technology and science allowed early scientists to prove the sun as the center of the solar system as well as many planets besides earth orbiting that very sun. It later allowed them to witness the stars as distant suns, each potentially holding planets which may, even if by a miniscule chance, hold life. Dreams of man traveling into space and exploring the universe were simply that, pipe dreams without the technology to support them. However, technology has shown a way of catching up with our dream. Explorers had better ships and star navigation to discover the new world, the Wright Brothers learned the intricacies of powered flight and finally allowed man to leave the ground. In a very short amount of time, technically speaking, man has achieved the once impossible and not only traveled into space, but walked on the moon. There are many reasons man has to explore the universe; natural resources, our natural exploratory nature, or seeking new life, man will eventually develop the technology necessary to make this a reality.
Though moon walks and subsequent space stations are great achievements, ones never to be forgotten, the success of space travel has also raised a great many questions and concerns. These concerns raise disturbing questions as to whether man will ever achieve prolonged space exploration or colonization. The human body is a delicate machine which was built and designed through evolution to survive on the strict guidelines of this planet. Things like atmosphere and gravity, along with our susceptibility to solar radiation will make it very difficult to achieve our goals. In addition, the propulsion technology now at our disposal is woefully inadequate to reasonably assume we could use it for prolonged exploration. Best estimates assume a space flight to Mars would be 7-9 months in duration one way, with a stopover period of 500 days or so in order to realign the planet for a return trip. Including the 7-9 month return trip, that would be approximately a 3 year trip. In this paper, I will discuss the problems this poses with the human body. Bone and muscle loss from lack of gravity during travel, our need for atmosphere and the effects of its absence on our body, radiation and the pitfalls that poses. These are all issues which must be addressed in order to make space exploration and colonization a reality. In addition to discussing the dangers, I will also propose possible solutions given to us by some of the greatest minds and thinkers. These ideas may not all be conventional, but after all, humanity has been doing the unconventional our whole existence.
The human body requires a delicate balance of environmental effects in order to not only thrive, but to survive. Without these conditions met, the body will break down internally and life will cease. The Earth's atmosphere is where we experience our first problem in regards to humans in space and potentially on other planets, both within and outside our solar system. The Earth's atmosphere is made up of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.5% water vapor, along with small amounts of other various trace gases. Though the levels of these gases will vary depending on variables such as temperature, altitude and humidity, humans have evolved over the millennia to rely on this particular mixture (Lujan & White, http://www.nsbri.org/HumanPhysSpace/index.html). Every breath you take draws this mixture of “air” into our lungs, saturating our blood with oxygen which is then carried to the different parts of our bodies and fueling our existence. As we exhale, carbon dioxide is expelled, completing the act of breathing. This mixture of gases is...