NASA engineer Adam Seltzner has an outside the box idea where it concerns colonizing space. Instead of sending people to planets orbiting other suns, send human genomes and raw material and then 3D print them on the new world.
He presented this idea at the Smithsonian Magazine’s ‘The Future is Here Festival’ in Washington DC recently.
The idea would get around the problem of sustaining space colonists on voyages across interstellar space. Absent the development of warp drive, something NASA is working on, such voyages could take decades or even centuries. Various ideas for slower than light include putting the colonists in suspended animation and having the descendants of the original voyages settle the new world.
If the star ship travels fast enough, a phenomenon called time dilation in which time passes at a different rate in the ship than in the rest of the universe. This is because time passed slower the faster one travels. The net effect is that a voyage that would take months from the perspective of the crew of the star ship would take centuries on Earth, The colonists would still be alive when they reach the new world even though their families and loved ones would be long dead.
The technology that Seltzner describes may be so advanced that it would become mature around the time warp drive becomes practical. There are also a number of questions surrounding the scheme.
Would the newly printed humans have the minds of new born infants when they are finished? Would they be taught for the first few years how to survive, say by an artificially intelligent computer? Or would the technology be developed to “download” human minds and memories into the printed humans?
On the other hand, the idea suggests a mixed version of interstellar colonization, sending a small, fully human crew who would then print their fellow colonists once they arrive at the new world. The possibilities for science fiction, at least, are endless.