Seeding Lifeless Planets With Earth's Microbes

Genesis Project

#Space

Thu, Sep 15th, 2016 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

According to Science, theoretical physicist Claudius Gros of Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany has proposed in an essay published last month in Astrophysics and Space Science that as we detect Earth-like planets void of life, we should send artificially intelligent probes to seed them with Earth's microbes.

Q: How would AI facilitate the process?

A: AI is important because we will not be around to direct anything once the probes arrive at a planet. The robots will have to decide if a certain planet should receive microbes and the chance to evolve life. The AI would be aboard the Genesis probe, which would only be about the size of a smartphone. And the probe would be sent to an exoplanet using solar sails to accelerate, similar to the Breakthrough Starshot mission, which plans to send probes to Alpha Centauri in search of life. Once the probe arrives, it would fall into orbit around the planet and, after double checking the planet was lifeless, begin the seeding process. Microbes would be inside small capsules, only millimeters long, and shot down to the exoplanet’s surface. The capsule would crash land, but the AI would be able to calculate an angle to shoot them at so the landing wouldn’t be lethal.

First, the AI would seed with photosynthesizing microbes. These would make oxygen accumulate in the atmosphere so that other kinds of life, like animals, could live there. When oxygen levels were high enough, which the probe would measure from orbit, eukaryotic microbes—which have more specialized cell machinery and make up multicellular life—would be sent down, too. Then, the probe would stop. That is where evolution would begin on a planet, and over millions of years, there might be many kinds of alien plants and animals.

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