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My question is simple, could we "nuke" a planet with life to create an atmosphere over time?

I was seeing a documentary about Jupiter's moon, Europa, and how it could have hydro thermal microbial life because it is ideal for it, which made me think, could we produce any noticeable change on a celestial body's atmosphere if we send a large amount of bacteria or any kind of organism with the ability of producing oxygen? It seems evident that some earth's microorganisms can survive and reproduce in some planets and moons, I assume that the quantity would have to be massive (or maybe not if it can reproduce quickly) for it to produce enough oxygen to have any noticeable effect and it would be after many many years, but is that theoretically possible?

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    $\begingroup$ " It seems evident that some earth's microorganisms can survive and reproduce in some planets and moons" citation needed $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Dec 23 '20 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ This is a great first question, welcome to Stack Exchange! It will be a better question if you can either remove that "It seems evident that..." sentence or support it with a source, be cause it distracts from the rest of the question. Maybe you can just change it to "It might be possible if..." if you really need it. If you want to support it you can look for some possible support in Planetary protection and Interplanetary contamination... $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 23 '20 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ ...and links on NASA's Office of Safety and Mission Assurance's Planetary Protection page. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 23 '20 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ The key word is terraformed, with site discussion living under that tag space.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/terraforming $\endgroup$ – GremlinWranger Dec 23 '20 at 23:59
  • $\begingroup$ Seeding planets/bodies with terraforming machines (be it mechanical or biological) is a frequent occurrence among science fiction I feel. $\endgroup$ – BMF Dec 24 '20 at 1:49
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Yes, it is completely possible, in fact the Earth's atmosphere was transformed by simple organisms, albeit over many millions of years. Undoubtedly we will at some point in the near future be able to design bacteria and other life forms that can survive extreme environments and metabolize elements into oxygen and other components that we need to survive. It's arguable to say that we may even be able to do it now, whether or not that's true is probably open to opinion and in any case is out of scope for the question.

It's possible that some Earth organisms could survive on other planets and moons which is why there's protocols in place to sterilize space probes that could come into contact with other celestial bodies, although it's pretty unlikely a garden-variety organism could survive. The hard problem seems to be design a metabolism which will work at the the right temperature ranges, eat the right thing and excrete the right thing rather than pure survival.

As for time it's fair to say any terraforming project would take many, many years, probably many lifetimes to accomplish, even if you dump enormous amounts on the planet. The organisms would have to be periodically re-engineered as the atmospheric composition and other aspects of the biosphere changes, and the changes needed to make a planet habitable would be substantial.

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