DARPA May Create Genetically Modified Organisms to Terraform Mars

First Posted: Jun 27, 2015 08:42 AM EDT

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) may be making new worlds. The agency wants to create organisms that will turn Mars into another Earth.

If humans are to actually live on Mars without being confined inside man-made structures, the planet's climate and surface would need to be altered. A process called "terraforming" could accomplish just that. DARPA, according to one journalist attending a press conference, was to engineer organisms that could survive the harsh climate of the Red Planet and, over time, begin to change it.

"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," said Alicia Jackson, deputy director of DARPA's new Biological Technologies Office in a biotech conference, according to The Motherboard. "There are anywhere from 30 million to 30 billion organisms on this Earth. We use two right now for engineering biology. I want to use any organism that has properties I want-I want to quickly map it and quickly engineer it."

DARPA has essentially designed the "Google Maps of genomes." Using this system, called DTA GView, scientists can quickly sift through the genomes of numerous organisms that already exist on Earth and determine what properties they want for a specific organism.

Obviously, it will still be quite some time before researchers create a terraformed Mars, or even engineer the organisms that could accomplish such a feat. However, it is a goal that DARPA may be working toward, and their work with genetics could also help projects here on Earth.

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