Cyborgs Exploring Space – Is It Us Or Them? – It is impossible for a human being to survive beyond about a minute and a half in space without significant technological assistance. If humans wish to colonize planets, it would require next state of human evolution.

Does this mean that we must become cyborgs or is space exploration just a dream of humanity?

Humans have for ages gazed at the night skies and wondered who or what is out there. We have dreamt of exploring alien worlds and setting up colonies on other planets.

Recently theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking declared that mankind faces two options.

Either we colonize space within the next two hundred years and build residential units on other planets or we will face the prospect of long-term extinction.

Professor Hawking believes the greatest dangers to human existence are technological capacity to damage the environment, the exponentially growing population and the strain on the Earth’s resources.

Artist’s concept of orbiter, airblimps, rovers and robots working together. Credit: NASA

“I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn’t have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet,” Stephen Hawking said.

Historian Roger Launius who is senior curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum also envisions humans leaving Earth.
But leaving our planet and start colonizing space is easier said than done.
For one thing, human biology must adapt to extreme space environments.

Space can be a very hostile environment. Humans are capable of surviving a minute and half in space without significant technological assistance.

Our astronauts have not spent much time too far away from Earth and we have currently little knowledge of what is required for long term human space missions.

A one-way trip to Mars takes approximately six months. That means astronauts will be in deep space for more than a year with potentially life-threatening consequences.
“If it’s about exploration, we’re doing that very effectively with robots. If it’s about humans going somewhere, then I think the only purpose for it is to get off this planet and become a multi-planetary species, ” Roger Launius says.

The idea of using cyborgs for space travel started in 1960 when Manfred Clynes, chief research scientist at Rockland State, in charge of the Dynamic Simulation Laboratory and Nathan Kline, director of research at Rockland State since 1952 and an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the Columbia University wrote an article titled “Cyborgs and Space”.

“Altering man’s bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments would be more logical than providing an earthly environment for him in space… Artifact-organism systems which would extend man’s unconscious, self-regulatory controls are one possibility,” the authors wrote.

Picard as Borg
Cyborgs in science fiction, such as the Borg in Star Trek, are often representations of evil. The Borg assimilate others against their will, saying, “Resistance is futile.”
Are cyborgs our future space explorers? Image Credit: CBS Studios, Inc.

Even though it may be both logically and technologically possible, the use of cyborgs quickly becomes a religious and ethical dilemma.

“It does raise profound ethical, moral and perhaps even religious questions that haven’t been seriously addressed,” Launius said.

“We have a way to go before that happens.”
Grant Gillett, a professor of medical ethics at the Otago Bioethics Center of the University of Otago Medical School in New Zealand points out that one of the dangers we can be facing when dealing with cyborgs is that these beings one day cease to be human. Since we do not understand the nature of a cyborg we could easily create a psychopath.
Currently space agencies do not spend much time and resources on cyborg research, but this might change in the near future.

If our objective is to become space-faring people, it’s probably going to force you to reconsider how to reengineer humans, “Launius said.

In other words, we might have no other option than sending cyborgs to space.

If we one day decide to send cyborgs on future space exploration mission, will these machines be treated as future humans, or will there still be a distinction between “us” and “them”? be

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