DARPA Wants to Turn Mars into Earth with Designer Organisms

DARPA Wants to Turn Mars into Earth with Designer Organisms

Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working to create designer organisms that would have abilities to terraform the Red Planet into Earth.

Virginia-based DARPA is trying to develop a technological toolkit by genetically engineering a wide range of organisms. This toolkit will have abilities to transform hostile places like Mars by recreating conditions needed for life to thrive. The goal would be to thicken the Martian atmosphere by designing organisms that would pull some specific gases out of the Mars atmosphere and release some other gases, for instance taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen and nitrogen.

Using this technological toolkit, DARPA wants to grow bacteria, photosynthesizing plants, and algae on Martian surface.

"For the first time, we have the technological toolkit to transform not just hostile places here on Earth, but to go into space not just to visit, but to stay." Alicia Jackson, the deputy director of Darpa's Biological Technologies Office in Virginia was quoted as saying by Motherboard.

DARPA plans to introduce a variety of designer organisms into the Martian environment. There are between 30 million to 30 billion different types of organisms on Earth, however, yeast and E. Coli are the two organisms that are mostly used in synthetic biology projects on Earth.

"I want to use any organism that has properties I want - I want to quickly map it and quickly engineer it." Jackson said.

Scientists will use a new software DTA GView, created by DARPA in association with some research partners, to correlate genetic information on organisms. Jackson describes this software as the "Google Maps of genomes." The software would enable researchers to quickly sequence genes and find the best way to engineer an organism. It would help select the best genes from any organism and then edit those genes to design something entirely new.

Scientists suggest that to create technological toolkit, microorganisms like bacteria will be engineered first followed by more complex forms of life in future.

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