A seed ship is an interstellar spacecraft which is able to transport embryos or gametes over long distances. In order to keep them save and healthy it acts most of its flight like a huge fridge, because the unborn humans can only survive such long travel times in a frozen state. Close to the target system this “fridge” is transformed into some kind of brood chamber. Next the chamber begins to grow up the gametes or embryos to babies. After a few years when they have become older, the settlement can start. The two main questions that appear in this scenario are about transportation and how to parent and educate the children.
What are the different ways to transport unborn humans to the stars?
1) send frozen embryos to the target system
2) send donated egg and sperm cells
3) send only genetic information and produce the required egg and sperm cells at the planet you want to settle.
The last option might be not feasible at the moment, because there is no system such as a biosequencer that can create the sperm or egg cells. So let’s have a closer look at the two remaining possibilities.
Both options for frozen embryos and frozen sperm and egg cells may be no problem due to the action of freezing. This is already state of the art. But an interstellar trip might last over more than a hundred years and we do not know if the cells or the embryos might take serious damage over such a long period of time. Today we only know that children were raised of embryos or gametes which are not stored longer than 20 years.
Another requirement for the freezing options is that there must be some kind of artificial uterus to grow the embryos or gametes. This capability is technically feasible in the next 10-30 years. Artificial wombs have been used for sharks and mice.
Teachers and Nannies for the kids
The problem with robot nannies is we cannot grow up thousands of babies at the target planet and hope everything will work out, without having done several tests beforehand. Human teachers would be needed until there is many decades of experience with advanced Artificial Intelligence and advanced robotics.
Worldships and sleeper ships would be able to send several times more people by leveraging frozen Embyros
Sleeper ships are where you send the crew in suspended animation in order to reduce the supplies that are needed.
We have not worked out how to induce hibernation in humans. An increased human lifespan is mandatory for the hibernation concept to be feasible for multi-decade interstellar missions. Up to now scientists managed to increase the lifespan of a roundworm by 70% using Hydrogen Sulfur, so it isn’t completely out of question, but still it is even less certain than the question if hibernation would work at all.
There are a lot of things that have be perfected, tested and proven before use on an Interstellar mission
There are a lot of things that have be perfected, tested and proven before use on an Interstellar mission. If your Interstellar mission is going to cost a trillion dollars then you would want to make sure you are not doing things that are not sure to work. This is why it only makes sense to get really good at manned Interplanetary missions and unmanned Interstellar before trying manned Interstellar.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.