The Genesis Project: New life on exoplanets
Can life be brought to celestial bodies outside our solar system, which are not permanently inhabitable? A new essay that has been published is trying to deal with this question. Over the last several years, the search for exoplanets has shown that very different types exist leading to new questions and a variety of possible answers.
“It is therefore certain that we will discover a large number of exoplanets which are inhabitable intermittently but not permanently.”
“Life would indeed be possible on these planets, but it would not have the time to grow and develop independently”, says Professor Dr. Claudius Gros.
Against this background, he has investigated whether it would be possible to bring life to planets with transient habitability.
From a technical standpoint, the Genesis mission could already be achieved within a few decades with the aid of interstellar unmanned micro spacecraft which could be both accelerated and slowed down passively. On arrival, an automated gene laboratory on board the probe would synthesize a selection of single-cell organisms with the aim of establishing an ecosphere of unicellular organisms on the target planet.
This could subsequently develop autonomously and possibly also into complex life forms.
“In this way, we could jump the approximately four billion years which had been necessary on Earth to reach the Precambrian stage of development out of which the animal world developed about 500 million years ago”, explains Gros.
In order not to endanger any life which might already be present, Genesis probes would only head for uninhabited exoplanets.
The mission’s actual duration played no role in the Genesis project, since the time scales for the subsequent geo-evolutionary development of the target planet lies in the range between a few tens of millions and a hundred million years. The Genesis project therefore has no direct benefit for people on Earth.
“It would, however, enable us to give life something back”, says Gros.
In this context, he is also discussing whether biological incompatibilities would have to be expected in the case that a second Earth fully developed in terms of evolution were to be colonized.
“That seems, however, at present to be highly unlikely”, says the physicist, dampening any too high expectations.
Claudius Gros (2016). Developing Ecospheres on Transiently Habitable Planets: The Genesis
Project Astrophysics and Space Science arXiv: 1608.06087v2