This is one of those strange stories that, as one can imagine, I simply have to blog about because the implications of certain statements in this article are rife with high octane speculation possibilities. The article was shared by Mr. S. (to whom I convey a big thank you for finding this gem). The story concerns two identical-twin brothers, Scott and Mark Kelly, who just also happen to be NASA astronauts. Scott Kelly proposed that NASA use them as test subjects in a long-term space faring study to determine specific effects on human DNA and physiology; one brother would spend a few weeks or months in space at the International Space Station, and the other would remain on Earth as the "control" group, and the brothers' DNA would be compared both before and at the end of the test.
It's what they found at the end of the test that has my mind pondering all sorts of high octane speculations of the day, but there's one in particular that intrigues me the most. See if you can spot what caught my eye, and what it might portend; here's the article:
Did you spot it?
What caught my eye was this paragraph:
What they found is quite strange. While many of the changes to Scott’s physiology returned to normal soon after returning to Earth, they found permanent changes as well. It seems that 7% of Scott Kelly’s DNA has been altered permanently. NASA has speculated on the existence of a “space gene,” which might be activated by conditions in space, causing changes in DNA. NASA says the changes to Scott’s DNA “related to his immune system, DNA repair, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia.” Whether these changes were seen as positive or negative were not said. We may have an answer if the retired astronaut suddenly begins a career as a vigilante superhero, or if it turns out he’s the mothman. (Emphasis added)
So permit me to indulge in today's high octane speculation. Two questions occurred to me reading the italicized sentence in the above paragraph. Firstly, how and why did NASA come to entertain the hypothesis that there might be a "space gene"? One answer might be that they determined this based on DNA analyses of prior long-term space missions, perhaps even beginning with the Apollo missions. After all, it is a known fact that upon return from Lunar landings, the astronauts were quarantined as a biological precaution against the possibility of "bringing something back" with them. This in turn implies the possible - and I would argue, probable - genetic testing both of themselves and of all of their gear and equipment, with the best biological and genetic technologies as then existed. But this really only pushes the problem back one step; it doesn't really give an indicators of why NASA would suspect the existence of a "space gene." To get to that question, we have to look at the second thing that caught my eye, the idea of the "space gene" itself.
Most versions of evolutionary theory hold some version of the idea that species develop responses to their environment by prolonged exposure to it, and that these responses can become part of the genetic code. In some more outre versions, some hold that the genetic code is adaptable to all sorts of environments, that it has a kind of "genetic potential" of all sorts, some of which is activated by prolonged exposure to some types of environments. It's the more basic and standard view that intrigues me here, because on that view, if there is a "space gene" in human DNA - as NASA apparently suspected, according to this article - then that gene had to have arisen at some point in human evolutionary theory by means of prolonged exposure to the environment of space.
This carries with it certain implications, all of them rather breathtaking when one thinks about them a moment, for there are three basic possibilities that this implies. The first is that this "space gene" entered the human DNA at some point during its evolutionary development, i.e., it might have entered the code very early and in some other species, and been handed down since then. As such, one might expect it to occur in other, non-human species, which could then be tested for similar results. Depending on where in the "taxonomical tree" one looked, one might be able to pinpoint where and more importantly, when this occurred. In short, one might be looking at a kind of genetic confirmation of the panspermia idea entertained by some scientists, namely, that life was seeded onto Earth from outer space. The second hypothesis is a more narrowed version of this. Imagine, for a moment, that geneticists were able to isolate this "space gene" but discovered that it only occurs in higher primates, or indeed, only in close human ancestors such as Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon man. If that were the case, then it would indicate our two last implications, namely, that someone from "out there" at some point in human evolutionary history mingled their "stuff" with our "stuff", and the "space gene" has been passed down ever since. One need only recall the biblical tales of Nephilim, or the Mesopotamian tales of the Annunaki, to see how such a thing might have occurred.
And then, of course, there's the final theory or implication that, at some point in the mists of human High Antiquity, we came from "out there", or explored "out there," and the genetic response to this established itself in human DNA.
Any one of these three possibilities give one pause as to why NASA would suspect the existence of a "space gene" and emphasize the importance of that question, why did they suspect it in the first place?
And yes, my bet is that quietly and secretly, they were more concerned about the implications of those ancient texts and hence of the latter two implications, than anything else, given the indications NASA itself uncovered in its explorations of our celestial neighbors like the Moon and Mars that there might be indications of structures, and hence, of some sort of intelligent life on those planets in the distant past.
See you on the flip side...