The Genesis project—new life on exoplanets

September 2, 2016, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
This artist's concept depicts a planetary system. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Can life be transplanted to planets outside our solar system that are not permanently inhabitable? This is the question with which Professor Dr. Claudius Gros from the Institute of Theoretical Physics at Goethe University Frankfurt is dealing in an essay that will appear in the scientific journal Astrophysics and Space Science.

In recent years, the search for exoplanets has identified very different types. "It is therefore certain that we will discover a large number of exoplanets that 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 Gros. Against this background, he has investigated whether it would be possible to bring life to planets with transient habitability.

From a technical standpoint, such a Genesis mission could already be achieved within a few decades with the aid of interstellar unmanned micro-spacecraft that could be 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 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 that 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 that 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 something back," says Gros. In this context, he is also discussing whether biological incompatibilities would have to be expected in the case of colonization of a second Earth fully developed in terms of evolution. "That seems at present to be highly unlikely," says the physicist, dampening any excessive expectations.

Explore further: Exoplanets 101: Looking for life beyond our Solar System

More information: Claudius Gros; Developing Ecospheres on Transiently Habitable Planets: The Genesis Project; Astrophysics and Space Science (in press); DOI: arxiv.org/abs/1608.06087

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SCVGoodToGo
3.2 / 5 (6) Sep 02, 2016
Genesis is planet forbidden; take permits many.
Jeffhans1
5 / 5 (3) Sep 02, 2016
We will leave earth based life everywhere it could possibly exist long after humans are just a footnote. Unless we do something really dumb and kill ourselves off in the next two decades, our legacy will include spreading self sustaining ecosystems to every moon and planet capable of allowing it wherever we go.
wduckss
1 / 5 (2) Sep 02, 2016
If in systems with exo planets have no comets and asteroids who will bring life?
Whether life just bring our comets or is it universal policy?
Whether comets carry out exchange information which is the life of currently popular or doing it at random?
dan42day
4 / 5 (2) Sep 02, 2016
In order not to endanger any life that might already be present, Genesis probes would only head for uninhabited exoplanets.


We have been probing Mars with sophisticated instruments that we can communicate with in near real time for decades, and still can't say for sure whether life exists there. How are we going to be sure life doesn't exist on some planet light years away that we can't even image?
Osiris1
3.3 / 5 (4) Sep 02, 2016
Already life on Mars. Some we put there despite our worst efforts, and some others put their maybe recent or in the remote past, and some indeginous. Suspect the indigenous life forms will exist underground or in frozen caves deep underground yet hosting liquid water from Mars primordial oceans and with some of Mars primordial atmosphere. Such may just have DNA like our most ancient life here. Mars smaller, cool quicker, get life from pan-spermia faster and transmit it here via asteroid glance blows off of it like that meterorite found in Antarctica.
cgsperling
4 / 5 (2) Sep 02, 2016
From Hell's heart, we will spread our seed at thee.
Whydening Gyre
3 / 5 (1) Sep 02, 2016
From Hell's heart, we will spread our seed at thee.

Khan?!?
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
1 / 5 (1) Sep 03, 2016
@dan: I couldn't understand what was meant by "whether biological incompatibilities would have to be expected", and it seems he has some unrealistic vision of organisms from different biospheres somehow 'eating' each other. It would take some evolution to make them anything near as efficient as the organisms from the same biosphere - which is the worst outcome already.

Also glossed over is biosignature detection. Seems he wants autonomous AI probes with instruments that decide.

Some parts of the paper look superficially reasonable, some look rubbish.

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