1. Introduction to the Technical Aspects
From the article that started it all, edited for wider audiencesFrom the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society 1997, 50, 93-102.
Michael N. Mautner, Department of Chemistry, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, 23284 and Department of Chemistry University of Canterbury, Christchurch 8001, New Zealand
Abstract from the Paper
Rapid advances in astronomy, space science and biology will make directed panspermia possible in this century. These advances are occurring in many related areas.
It is possible for microbial swarms aimed at star-forming regions of interstellar clouds to seed stellar associations of young planetary systems - perhaps 10 to 100 systems initially. According to our calculations (see propulsion and launch) solar sails of no greater than 35 cm would be capable of launching swarms of millimeter-size, milligram packets at 5E-4 c, that would be able to penetrate interstellar clouds. Selective capture in high-density planetary accretion zones (of densities > 1E-17 kg per m3) would be achieved by viscous drag. In the paper and on this website, strategies are evaluated to seed dense cloud cores, or individual protostellar condensations, accretion disks or the young planets within them. Targeting the Ophiuchus cloud is described as a model system. The biological content, dispersed in 30 mm, 1E-10 kg capsules containing 1E6 freeze-dried microorganisms each, may either be captured directly by new planets or delivered to planets after first being captured and incorporated by carbonaceous asteroids and comets. These objects, as modelled by meteorite materials, contain biologically available organic and mineral nutrients that are shown to sustain microbial growth.
The program would be motivated by, and based on panbiotic ethics, which in turn is predicated on:
- the unique position of complex organic life amongst the structures of Nature;
- self-propagation as the basic propensity of a living, self-replicating pattern;
- the biophysical unity of humans with the organic, DNA/protein family of life on Earth; and
- (consequently) the primary human purpose to safeguard and propagate our organic life-form [4, 5].
Panspermia, natural or directed, is a possible mechanism for the spread of life through interstellar space [1-7]. In fact, we may be already capable of using solar sail technology for seeding new planetary systems nearby with our DNA/protein form of life [4-6]. This program could become a reality in just decades, due to rapid advances in high-precision astrometry, advanced propulsion, discovery of extrasolar planetary systems, and microbial genetic engineering .
An essential component for realising directed panspermia is the ethical motivation. Seeding distant planets with life is the ultimate altruism, bearing results long after the generations that implement it. The ethical motivation for such a program must recognise the points listed above.
Prime targets for biological expansion can be regions of interstellar clouds where newly forming stars and planetary systems are concentrated. The discussion on this website and in the paper consider the physical environments of such regions, and the implications for the microbial missions. Both the technological and the ethical aspects of seeding with life star-forming interstellar clouds are surveyed.
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