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A reverse panspermia


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This question appeared in another thread, but it was OT there, so I post it anew.

When we find a promising but sterile world, shouldn't we throw some archaea there with a purpose to spread life? After all, if / when we all go extinct here on Earth, then 4 billion years of evolution will go down the drain. This way we would be instrumental in saving the life. Nobody on Earth but us is capable of doing so.

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What for? So we can get credit (from whom?) as intelligent designers?

Shouldn't we rather let the promising worlds work out their own fertility issues?

But that's an ethics question, not an evolution question.

2 hours ago, Genady said:

we all go extinct here on Earth, then 4 billion years of evolution will go down the drain.

Only if 'we' take all the other life forms on Earth with us. That's unlikely. Most of them, sure; probably not all. So this planet can still have a second chance.

Better yet, suppose we stop short of mass extinction?

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44 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

What for?

Just a little project. While we can.

44 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

Shouldn't we rather let the promising worlds work out their own fertility issues?

May be. However, on the scale of trillions worlds out there, this will not have any significant effect. But could make a difference between life and death for the life originated on Earth.

44 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

Only if 'we' take all the other life forms on Earth with us. That's unlikely. Most of them, sure; probably not all. So this planet can still have a second chance.

Better yet, suppose we stop short of mass extinction?

I'm thinking rather about a time scale of a billion years or so, when Earth will become uninhabitable regardless.

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2 hours ago, Genady said:

Just a little project.

A little project? How many $billions; how many scientist and technician-hours, how much effort that might be directed at saving lives on Earth? While we can - which we actually can, while terraforming and seeding another planet is a long shot, at best.

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28 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

A little project? How many $billions; how many scientist and technician-hours, how much effort that might be directed at saving lives on Earth? While we can - which we actually can, while terraforming and seeding another planet is a long shot, at best.

You might be right. I don't know and I don't have an opinion. But, I hear the same arguments about $ and hours from my neighbor, who about once a month asks me who cares about what happened to the universe billions of years ago, or how galaxies billions light years away have formed, when there are so many problems on Earth that need to be solved today.

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9 minutes ago, Genady said:

I don't know and I don't have an opinion.

Then why propose it?

I'm not averse to looking at the universe; I am to tampering with it. Look how badly we messed up our one little planet! I'm not in favour of exporting our manias.

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7 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

Then why propose it?

I'm not averse to looking at the universe; I am to tampering with it. Look how badly we messed up our one little planet! I'm not in favour of exporting our manias.

I propose it because I don't know and I don't have an opinion, and I'd like to hear opinions and to learn arguments from others. I am proposing it on discussion board, not to a board of directors of SpaceX or NASA :) 

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7 hours ago, Genady said:

This question appeared in another thread, but it was OT there, so I post it anew.

When we find a promising but sterile world, shouldn't we throw some archaea there with a purpose to spread life? After all, if / when we all go extinct here on Earth, then 4 billion years of evolution will go down the drain. This way we would be instrumental in saving the life. Nobody on Earth but us is capable of doing so.

 

41 minutes ago, Genady said:

I propose it because I don't know and I don't have an opinion, and I'd like to hear opinions and to learn arguments from others. I am proposing it on discussion board, not to a board of directors of SpaceX or NASA :) 

While we all understand that we havn't treated Earth the way we should, and havn't treated each other the way we should, we are still pretty special in being the only life form that can undertake space exploration and even contemplate what you suggest. Climate change will happen. What we need to do is limit our own contribution to it. Perhaps that could be too late.

Earth either way has a "use by date" a few billion years hence, along of course with our parent Star. If we are to extend our occupational period in the universe and avoid going extinct, we need to do explore and spread our seed.

If we find a sterile world, I do not find what you suggest as something reprehensible. In fact, I see it as science and probably desirable and worth while. What you call "reverse Panspermia" may already be in process for all we know...We have had many explosive events on Earth that has probably hurled stuff into space. Abiogenesis on Earth itself could still hypothetically be a result of Panspermia.

We have heard talk of terraforming Mars, something I find as far more unlikely, too large a time frame, and far more difficult to boot.

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When I have come up with the idea / question in the OP and with its name, Reverse Panspermia, it was new to me. However, after a search on the Internet it turned out to be not so new.

For example, "A German physicist envisions giving life a leg-up by sprinkling planets with microbes from robotic spacecraft." (Genesis project – a plan to seed life on other planets (cosmosmagazine.com)) Or, "As Mautner explains in his study published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Cosmology, the strategy is to deposit an array of primitive organisms on potentially fertile planets and protoplanets throughout the universe." (Professor: We have a 'moral obligation' to seed universe with life (phys.org)) There are more.

The title has been used as well, albeit for a not purposeful seeding: "His approach is that panspermia, that is, that life arrived on Earth aboard meteorites or comets, has also occurred backward." (Reverse panspermia: The possibility that life on Earth has reached other planets (kagay-an.com))

There is even a legal opinion: "What happens if we seed other planets with Earth life? From a scientific perspective, the answer is tremendously complicated. From a legal perspective it’s simple: Someone goes to jail." (Here's Why It's Illegal to Seed Planets With Alien Lifeforms From Earth (inverse.com))

Just FYI.

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8 hours ago, Peterkin said:

A little project? How many $billions; how many scientist and technician-hours, how much effort that might be directed at saving lives on Earth? While we can - which we actually can, while terraforming and seeding another planet is a long shot, at best.

Well, it's going to take millennia to do anything noticeable and much longer to do anything "interesting", so, even if it's a billion dollars, it might only be $10 per year on average.
 

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I am supporting the idea (once we are damn sure the target world is sterile). Much to learn about life.

The problem is: who decides what to do and how to proceed. There is no 'world-level scientific government' or similar. So, it seems thugs will  just happen.

I understand, we had already some experience with unintentional life spreading on ISS. But ISS is a nice place. So, I still wonder if all this sterilization of Mars rovers is necessary - maybe we wouldn't be able to spread life there even if we try hard.

Thinking to extremes: what if we never ever encounter any sign of life anywhere in the Universe - would we then be morally obligated to spread it out, or should we keep it confined here on one fragile planet?

 

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If we found a planet that was similar to Earth, with liquid water and shielding from harmful radiation, then why not seed it? You are just talking about a huge sterile rock. What can you possibly harm? I would go the whole hog, if it had near 1g of gravity, and introduce bigger forms of life, as much as I possibly could. After all, the Sun is not the only danger to life on Earth. Life could be wiped out by a much smaller body, so long as it scored a direct hit. If you had seeded another planet, it wouldn't be a total loss. 

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41 minutes ago, Danijel Gorupec said:

I am supporting the idea (once we are damn sure the target world is sterile). Much to learn about life.

How do you learn it? Even supposing such a hospitable planet is found, how many centuries would it take for the microbes to travel there, and how long before they report back?

Edited by Peterkin
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29 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

How do you learn it? Even supposing such a hospitable planet is found, how many centuries would it take for the microbes to travel there, and how long before they report back?

Why report back?

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16 minutes ago, Genady said:

Why report back?

So we can learn about it. Otherwise, what's the point? Humans value life - one and off, some life, erratically -  that doesn't make life valuable to the universe. It's just more hubris, pretending it's all here for us. 

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3 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

So we can learn about it. Otherwise, what's the point? Humans value life - one and off, some life, erratically -  that doesn't make life valuable to the universe. It's just more hubris, pretending it's all here for us. 

The point is, to give life a chance to go on after there is no more chance on Earth.

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3 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

So we can learn about it. Otherwise, what's the point?

It's panspermia. The point is reproduction, not praise or blame. Many (most?) species on Earth reproduce by simply spreading their seed as far and wide as possible. Whether it's technically possible or ethical is another question.

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So -- No purpose? No gain in knowledge? No preserving human progeny or culture? All that effort and expulsion of Earth resources into space

- just because it's what puffballs do?

OK then

Edited by Peterkin
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2 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

So -- No purpose? No gain in knowledge? All that effort and expulsion of Earth resources into space - just because it's what plants do?

OK then

The purpose is:

11 minutes ago, Genady said:

The point is, to give life a chance to go on after there is no more chance on Earth.

Whose knowledge? Humans are a tool, not a goal in this idea.

Plants and other forms of life on Earth do it while restricted to Earth. The idea is, to remove this restriction.

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1 minute ago, Peterkin said:

And yet again: Why? Just because that's what puffballs do.... except they can't, so we should. What for?

The same answer as before: "to give life a chance to go on after there is no more chance on Earth."

Maybe if you rephrase your question, I'll understand why this answer doesn't answer it.

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20 minutes ago, Genady said:

The same answer as before: "to give life a chance to go on after there is no more chance on Earth."

Why do you think life as we know it on this planet should continue? Why should the life of a planet not end with the planet which gave rise to it? *

I'm using the word "should" advisedly, since the question is directed, not at a natural process, but at a huge artificial and mechanical contrivance that would deplete this planet of its ability to sustain life even further than we have already depleted it. This strikes me as not merely counter-intuitive, but counter-productive, to such an extent that there must be a some kind of imperative driving it. So - Why? 

*Obviously, if life as we know it didn't originate on this planet, but came from somewhere else in the galaxy, then it's already out there and doesn't need a boost. 

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4 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

Why do you think life as we know it on this planet should continue? Why should the life of a planet not end with the planet which gave rise to it? *

I'm using the word "should" advisedly, since the question is directed, not at a natural process, but at a huge artificial and mechanical contrivance that would deplete this planet of its ability to sustain life even further than we have already depleted it. This strikes me as not merely counter-intuitive, but counter-productive, to such an extent that there must be a some kind of imperative driving it. So - Why? 

*Obviously, if life as we know it didn't originate on this planet, but came from somewhere else in the galaxy, then it's already out there and doesn't need a boost. 

I think I understand the question now. In this case, I think, it is just a question to a preliminary study in economics of the project: how "huge" is the expense.

I don't know what makes you think that it needs to be as devastatingly expensive as you describe. I think it doesn't have to be more expensive than, say, LHC. Maybe less. We already have a range of developed and tested technologies used for JWST, rovers, probes. Searching for a "suitable" planet is not part of this project - these data come from already running exoplanet projects. There are more technical options described in the articles I've linked a few posts back.

The big unknown rather is, how common is life. If life turns out to be even a bit common, then this project is not needed. If on the other hand it turns out to be extremely rare, like e.g. nowhere to be found, then this project has merit.

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