Project Genesis: Robots, carrying gene factories, to reach and recreate life on exoplanets

Scientist Claudius Gros project plans to send robotic missions, carrying gene factories, into the universe and spread the life on exoplanets to recreate evolution of life in the next 500 million years replicating the evolution on Earth.

Several projects and missions have been launched over the years to answer one simple question – are we, the humans, alone in the universe or do we have company? These ambitious projects include Project Blue and Breakthrough Starshot. However, one of the bravest initiatives of this time has been the Project Genesis; which aims to seed life in the distant planets.

Physicist Claudius Gros from the Institute for Theoretical Physics at Goethe University, Frankfurt, had first proposed this project through his paper, "Developing Ecospheres on Transiently Habitable Planets: The Genesis Project," which dabbled on how robotic missions carrying gene factories (or cryogenic pods) could distribute microbial life to "transiently habitable exoplanets" that are capable of harboring life, but possibly are not going to give birth to them on their own.

"Exoplanets come in all sizes, temperatures and compositions. The purpose of the Genesis Project is to offer terrestrial life alternative evolutionary pathways on those exoplanets that are potentially habitable but yet lifeless," said Gross in an interview with Futurism.

Scientists believe that simple life forms are more common in the universe than the complex organisms. On Earth, it took 500 million years for simple life forms to turn into complex ones. So, "if we give planets the opportunity to fast forward evolution, we can give them the chance to have their own Cambrian Explosions," suggested the physicist.

The prime planets, which will be targeted under Project Genesis would be habitable "oxygen planets" surrounding the M-dwarfs, such as TRAPPIST-1. There is a good possibility that oxygen planets are fit for supporting life because they "eat up prebiotic conditions. We believe there may be billions of oxygen planets in our galaxy. They would have no life, and complex life needs oxygen. In science fiction, you have all these planets that look alike. We could imagine that in half a billion years, we could have this because we seeded oxygen planets," said Gros.

Sending the microbial life forms into space is going to depend on the technology. As per the physicist, "Send in a gene bank, and then select the most optimal organism to send down. If that is not possible, you would have to have frozen germs. In the end, it depends on what would be the technically available." Sending off synthetic life can also be an option, he said.

"In science fiction, you have the alien life with a different genetic code. Today, people are trying to produce this here on Earth. The end goal is to have new life forms that are based on a different code. This would be very dangerous on Earth, but on a far-distant planet, it would be beneficial," said the scientist.

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The first batch of organisms would include unicellular autotrophs. Autotrophs are photo-synthesizing bacteria such as cyanobacteria and eukaryotes. The second batch, that will follow, would consist of Heterotrophs. These are the organisms, which feed on other ones and exist only after autotrophs.