Tuesday, April 19, 2016
China takes a baby step toward off-world life
Ok so Chinese scientists announced recently that they've successfully grown a mammal in space. Then, in what might be the greatest leap since Mike Powell broke Bob Beamon's 23 year old long jump record, claimed that it proves that humans can reproduce and live in space.
Not so fast my friends. I'm no reproductive specialist, but I did major in Biology, and I can tell you that a fertilized mouse embryo in zero gravity turning into a blastocyst(the mass of cells that gets implanted into the uterine wall for development) does not a human make.
The Chinese basically replicated the first 5 days after fertilization and announced "Eureka, we've done it"! That's like calling some flour, a bag of chocolate morsels, and a few pot plants in your kitchen, a plate of brownies.
Every process on Earth, both organic and inorganic, has taken place under the constant strain of gravity. It's why tree trunks are made of rigid wood and not diaphanous strings of xylem and phloem, why swimming pools are possible, and why birds have wings. Imagine what everything would look like if we had evolved without gravity.
And now imagine how human life might change if forced to exist for scores of generations in micro-gravity.
I'm not saying we shouldn't colonize other planets or mine asteroids with far less gravity than Earth, or that the Chinese haven't accomplished something interesting along the path toward interplanetary colonization. I'm just saying that looking for ways to exist in life-long micro-gravity is probably the most daunting of all human undertakings......we weren't designed for it in any way.