DARPA: We Are Engineering the Organisms That Will Terraform Mars

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It’s no secret that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is investing heavily in genetic engineering and synthetic biology. Whether that excites or terrifies you depends on how you feel about the military engineering totally new life forms. If you’re in the excitement camp, however, here’s a nugget for you: DARPA believes that it’s on the way to creating organisms capable of terraforming Mars into a planet that looks more like Earth.

The goal of terraforming Mars would be to warm up and potentially thicken its atmosphere by growing green, photosynthesizing plants, bacteria, and algae on the barren Martian surface. It’s a goal that even perpetual techno-optimists like Elon Musk think isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but it’s a goal that DARPA apparently already has its eyes on.

“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, deputy director of DARPA’s new Biological Technologies Office said Monday at a DARPA-hosted biotech conference. As she said this, Jackson was pointing at an artist’s rendering of a terraformed Mars.

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