Biologist: Space Travelers Can Benefit From Genetic Engineering

Mike Wall 

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — NASA’s human spaceflight program might take some giant leaps forward if the agency embraces genetic engineering techniques more fully, according to genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter.

The biologist, who established the J. Craig Venter Institute that created the world’s first synthetic organism earlier this year, told a crowd here Saturday (Oct. 30) that human space exploration could benefit from more genetic screening and genetic engineering. Such efforts could help better identify individuals most suited for long space missions, as well as make space travel safer and more efficient, he said.

“I think this could change the shape of what NASA does, if you make the commitment to do it,” said Venter, who led a team that decoded the human genome a decade ago.

Venter spoke to a group of scientists and engineers who gathered at NASA’s Ames Research Center for two different meetings: a synthetic biology workshop put on by NASA, and Space Manufacturing 14: Critical Technologies for Space Settlement, organized by the nonprofit Space Studies Institute.

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