Richard Hollingham, for BBC:
The first generation of colonists born in space will have parents with a strong connection to Earth. It is more intriguing to examine how the colonists’ grandchildren and their grandchildrens’ children will adapt to life in the new environment. Space, not Earth, will be their home.
The fastest theoretical journey to the nearest star outside our Solar System, travelling at close to the speed of light, is more than 500 years. Think how humans on Earth have changed in that time.
I’ve been thinking about these questions as I conduct research for a book about interstellar life. To me it’s no question that these things will happen, and we’ll certainly have to come to terms with the moral questions as they’re raised. But what’s far more interesting to me is how we get to our destination(s). Generation ship? Sleeper ship? Seed ship? Each has its benefits.
Also there’s the question of genetic diversity: how many people it would take to populate a new planet? As it turns out, it’s a pretty big number: 40,000. Meaning that the building of that generation ship will be quite an undertaking.
Not to give anything away, but I’m betting on a sleeper ship/seed ship hybrid, with the assumption that gene synthesis will help round out the population once the relatively small colony is established.