The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has suggested one route to producing a life-sustaining atmosphere on Mars. They don’t plan on just sending up a spacecraft full of biomatter and dumping it on the surface to see what happens. Instead, the idea is to heat, and maybe even thicken, the planet’s atmosphere using a host of photosynthetic organisms, including bacteria and plants.
The probability of anyone terraforming the Red Planet, transforming it from a harsh world into a habitable green-and-blue one like Earth, is still exceptionally slim. However, at a DARPA-hosted biotech conference, the agency announced that “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.”
They will use a new software described as the “Google Maps of genomes.” This archive gives the user information about known genes in an organism, alongside their position in the genome.
Future goals include eradicating vector-borne illnesses, engineering organisms that undo environmental damage and creating organisms that can survive in harsh environments. Maybe once DARPA has perfected terraforming Earth’s most uninhabitable or damaged environments, it can then set its sights on Mars.
Terraforming Mars would be difficult: It would require growing organisms on Earth, packaging them to survive the voyage to Mars, and then encouraging them to grow on the Martian landscape.