- how an off-Earth base could quickly become self-sufficient -


Genetics: Dr. Alex Layendecker describes how couples and children could psychological challenges of living in a small colony and also how a small colony could achieve genetic viability in the near-term using frozen embryos.

For a colony to be self-sustaining, its population will have to grow indefinitely. A common question arises as to how many settlers there would need to be to ensure that the settlement wouldn't collapse genetically with inbreeding.

The question of what exactly the minimum viable population (MVP) is for humans is highly debated. The estimate of the MVP for humans ranges from a few dozen to 10,000 or so. Based upon the history of the settlement of isolated islands in the South Pacific, it would seem as though the low-end estimates are more correct.

But there is another factor to consider. Isolated islands in the South Pacific were often settled by individuals who were tribally related. In the case of a Survival Colony, this need not be the case.

The number of individuals needed in an initial, fully Earth independent colony can be very small yet not risk inbreeding. This is because, from the get-go, a container of frozen, genetically unrelated embryos could be stored at cryogenic temperatures indefinitely. In vitro fertilization has been conducted since the and studies show that frozen embryos maintain their viability regardless of how long they have been frozen. Yes, it makes for some awkward ethical situations in case a small colony were completely cut off from Earth. Mate selection would be very limited and by necessity some children would be born only to a mother and not a father (present). Likewise, at some point children would mate with others who were distant cousins by relationship but not by genetics. But at least the colony would survive genetically.

In addition to the genetic survival of humans, one would need to take into account the genetic viability of every species used in the colony. So, for example, there would need to be a variety of genetically-unrelated seeds for each type of plant used, a set of frozen embryos for the fish, etc, etc.

With proper selection and preservation, sufficient genetic variety can be provided.

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