Synthetic Life Could Help Colonize Mars, Biologist Says
Many proponents of colonizing Mars have brought forth the interesting method of terraforming. But in it lies other biological feats we must perfect here on Earth before attempting it in other planets. And it looks like biologists have geared to do just that.
Synthetic organisms engineered to use carbon dioxide as a raw material could help humans settle Mars one day, a prominent biologist says:
Man-made, CO2-munching lifeforms are already in the works, geneticist Craig Venter told a crowd here during an event called TEDxNASA@SiliconValley Wednesday night (Aug. 17). Venter and his team, who made headlines last year by creating the world’s first synthetic organism, are trying to design cells that can use atmospheric carbon dioxide to make food, fuel, plastics and other products.
This ability would obviously have huge implications here on Earth, but it could also help make Mars — whose thin atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide — a more livable place, Venter said. “These kinds of processes will allow us to make almost anything needed there from that CO2 environment,” Venter said in a video presentation.>
Venter and his team announced in May 2010 that they had created the first living organism with a synthetic genome.
The biologists constructed the genome of the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides from many preassembled units of DNA. Then they transplanted the genome into the cell of a closely related species that had been emptied of its own genome. The “host” bacterium soon began to function and reproduce just as a naturally occurring M. mycoides would.
The feat was more than just a neat trick. It showed that custom-designing organisms to do all sorts of helpful tasks is eminently possible — and may not be that far off. Creating new lifeforms could help “solve some of the fundamental problems of providing sufficient energy, food, clean water and medicines,” Venter said.