In recent years a large number of countries and private investors have started to show interest in the possibility to reach and colonize the Red Planet. The first colonists will face serious challenges, but a team of researchers offers an interesting approach to the subject.
According to a recently published paper, the first step of the planetary colonization process should involve a selection of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that should be sent to Mars and studied as they react to the environmental conditions.
It is well-known that life as we know it would not exist in the absence of microorganisms that offer certain benefits. To enhance our chances of colonizing barren planets like Mars we should establish colonies of beneficial microbes. Before we go further it is important to note that the paper also adheres to the strict no-contamination policies imposed by NASA and other space programs.
Equipment is often sterilized carefully before being sent to space, in an attempt to keep germs and contaminants away. The processes can be compared to those which take place in a hospital, since bringing dangerous pathogens to an unknown world could trigger dramatic consequences.
By introducing select microbes to Mars, we could accelerate the terraforming process in a controlled manner. At some point viruses will reach a new planet inevitably, carried by travelers.
Microorganisms are essential for many of the processes which support life on Earth, including tasks like digestion and decomposition. Extremophiles would be able to survive on Mars since they enjoy harsh conditions.
The idea is quite interesting, but additional research is required before any attempts to send microbes towards Mars could take place. One of the complicated tasks involves the need to identify which microbes would be useful for the attempt to terraform Mars. At this points many agencies and companies are hard at work on rockets which should be able to carry payloads to Mars.
The paper was published in a scientific journal.