There seems to be talk (and even some action done by DARPA) about engineering organisms to terraform Mars, however, current space organizations like NASA clearly do not want to get anything that could survive in space (other than humans) to stay in space for research purposes.

While sending organisms to do terraforming is something that can't be done yet, why is it that major space organizations seem not to care, some even embracing the idea? From their current behavior, I'd think they'd be extremely against it if anything.


Terraforming Mars, if it turns out to be viable at all, will be a very long term project, and will start very far in the future. (We'll probably have to learn how to terraform the Earth first; we have messed up our own environment pretty badly.)

Probe sterilization efforts are intended to avoid interfering with the search for current or fossil life on Mars, which is a much nearer term goal.

Once we have determined the extent of life on Mars, being humans, we'll modify the Martian ecosystem to our own purposes.

  • $\begingroup$ How do you mean that "we have messed up our own environment pretty badly"?? Earth is more habitable than ever. Especially the increasing CO2 emissions makes the world greener, agriculture more efficient and stimulates wild life, evidently without having any effect on the temperature. Industrialization has been extremely beneficial to our non-human friends on Earth. I don't understand what you are alluding to as "bad" with this life stimulating development. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Aug 8 '15 at 6:03
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ What do you mean more habitable, @LocalFluff? There are multiple signs that the Earth is currently undergoing a mass extinction event, and that the cause of this current extinction event is us. $\endgroup$ Aug 8 '15 at 10:05
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen No, that's a political lie which has fooled you. It is very popular to "believe" in the doomsday myth. What measures do you have to support your claim that a mass extinction is going on on Earth today? (I find it amazing that otherwise intelligent and accomplished men let themselves be fooled so easily by simple fraudsters in politics and economics!) $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Aug 8 '15 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ @LocalFluff: Sala, Osvaldo E., et al. "Global biodiversity scenarios for the year 2100." Science 287.5459 (2000): 1770-1774. Wake, David B., and Vance T. Vredenburg. "Are we in the midst of the sixth mass extinction? A view from the world of amphibians." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105.Supplement 1 (2008): 11466-11473. Barnosky, Anthony D., et al. "Has the Earth/'s sixth mass extinction already arrived?." Nature 471.7336 (2011): 51-57. Brooks, Thomas M., et al. "Habitat loss and extinction in the hotspots of biodiversity." Conservation Biology 16.4 (2002): 909-923. $\endgroup$ Aug 8 '15 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ Just to name a few. The political lies are mostly from the naysayers. $\endgroup$ Aug 8 '15 at 16:02

While sending organisms to do terraforming is something that can't be done yet, why is it that major space organization seems to not care, some even embracing the idea?

Not everyone is of the same mind.

The current planetary protection rules exist for two reasons, one practical, the other, moral. The practical reason is that should we discover life on another planet, we need to be able to know that that life is not a consequence of contamination by the very probes sent to look for that life. The moral reason is that committing planetocide is a crime that makes committing genocide look petty in comparison.

Others see things differently. If there is life on Mars (and that remains a very big "if"), it's obviously extremely primitive life. To this group of people, killing off hypothetical primitive microbes is not a crime. To them, terraforming Mars would not be a crime against the universe. It would instead be a "good thing".


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