Space Technology

Is Introducing New Life to Exoplanets Possible?

exoplanet life
Image credit : IAU/L. Calçada

In an essay that will soon appear in the scientific journal Astrophysics and Space Science, Professor Dr. Claudius Gros from the Institute of Theoretical Physics at Goethe University, Frankfurt, delves into the question on whether life can be brought to celestial bodies outside our solar system, even if these are not habitable on a permanent basis.

Various different types of exoplanets have been identified in the search for life on other planets in recent years. Gros feels that it is inevitable that we will discover a large number of exoplanets that are inhabitable intermittently, but not permanently. Gros is of the opinion that life on these planets is possible, but it has not had the time to grow and develop independently. To explore this possibility, Gros has investigated whether it would be possible to introduce life to planets that have transient habitability.

With the help of unmanned interstellar micro spacecraft that could be both slowed down and accelerated passively, the Genesis mission could technically be achieved within a few decades.

An automated gene laboratory on board the spacecraft would manufacture a selection of single-cell organisms on arrival at the planet. These would be released on the target the hope of establishing an ecosphere of unicellular organisms.

Subsequently, this could develop autonomously, possibly into complex life forms. Gros explains that if this is successful, it would leapfrog the approximately four billion years which had been necessary on Earth to reach the Precambrian stage of development. It took another 500 million years for the animal world to develop from this stage. Genesis probes would only be sent to uninhabited exoplanets to preserve any life that may already be present.

The Genesis project’s actual duration is inconsequential, since the time scales for the ensuing geo-evolutionary development of the target planet is in the range of between a few tens of millions and a hundred million years. Although there would be no direct benefit for people on Earth, Gros feels that this would be an opportunity for humans to give life something back.

Another subject Gros touches on in his paper is whether biological incompatibilities could be expected should it happen that another Earth fully develops in terms of evolution, and it were subsequently colonized. The physicist does however add that this scenario seems highly unlikely based on what we currently know.

The Study was published in the journal Astrophysics and Space Science.

  • Lurgid Vogon

    First we need to discuss this: Why would we want to seed other planets with life? Is this necessarily a good thing?