A New Idea For Colonizing Space: Send Our DNA, Assemble Ourselves Once We Get There

I mean, it’s just too hard to send actual humans, right?
This is an artist’s interpretation of Kepler-186f, a potentially Earth-like exoplanet. NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech

It’s difficult to send people far into space. Why not send bacteria instead? That’s the simple foundation behind one decidedly out-there idea for sending humans to live on other planets in the future.

“Our best bet for space exploration could be printing humans, organically, on another planet,” Adam Stelzner, the Curiosity rover’s lead engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said during a conference this month. In a truly wonderful story, Motherboard talked with Stelzner and Harvard University biologist Gary Ruvkun about the idea. Here’s how it would work:

  1. Load human genomes into some hardy bacteria.
  2. Send the bacteria into space, perhaps to a nice, comfy, Earth-like exoplanet.
  3. ?????
  4. Humans assembled from those genomes colonize the new planet.

Clearly, there’s a lot to work out still. Motherboard looked into several experts’ thoughts on filling in the blanks. 3-D printing came up.

While all this is wild speculation, Ruvkun, one of the idea’s first proposers, pointed out it’s not necessarily crazier than thinking about colonizing space in the first place.