DARPA Wants to Terraform Mars with Genetically Engineered Organisms

The U.S. Government wants to create a Martian colony, so it is creating genetically engineered organisms to terraform Mars.


Many have eyed Mars as a potential alien world on which a human settlement could be established. But, although Mars is considered the most Earth-like planet in the solar system, the conditions on Mars are less than ideal for human life. The planet barely has an atmosphere, which means there isn’t much natural protection against solar radiation. The large majority of the atmosphere is carbon dioxide. So the lack of breathable air is a major issue. And this world is miserably cold. The average temperature on Mars is less than fifty degrees (Fahrenheit) below zero.

NASA and a few private space companies are exploring solutions like specialized habitats to deal with the harsh Martian environment. But the Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to take a different approach. It wants to terraform Mars into an Earth-like planet.


New software developed by DARPA reportedly makes it easier for the agency to genetically engineer all types of organisms. And scientists want to create organisms that can be used to terraform Mars.

While speaking at the recent Synthetic Biology: Engineering, Evolution & Design (SEED) conference in Boston, MA, DARPA’s deputy director of its Biological Technologies Office, Alicia Jackson, explained that DARPA’s technology provides the ability “to go into space not just to visit, but to stay.”

These manufactured organisms would be sent to Mars to alter its ecosystem by spawning algae, bacteria, and even plants to warm and thicken the planet’s atmosphere, thus creating a more Earth-like world for human settlers.

DARPA Wants to Terraform Mars with Genetically Engineered Organisms - Clapway


Terraforming Mars is a goal for DARPA down the road. But, for now, the agency sees many uses for its genetically engineered organisms here on Earth. Jackson provided the example of sending organisms to a natural or man-made disaster area to assist in repairing environmental damage.

DARPA hopes that, after using Earth as a proving ground, its engineered organisms will be ready to begin preparing alien worlds for human colonization.


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