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Life seed capsules hurled into space from satellites using centrifugal catapults

Image credit: Bdelloid rotifers, Karine Van Doninck at UNamur and ULB

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Jun 24, 2022
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Capsules containing dry/frozen resilient microbes hurled into space from satellites using centrifugal catapults.
  • Potentially seed life in the galaxy.
  • Interstellar seed vault.
  • Interstellar insurance policy for life.
How it works
Build satellites that contain thousands of small capsules packed with a dry/frozen mix of the most resilient microbes on Earth. While the satellites are in orbit, use a built-in centrifugal catapult (a miniature version of this) to hurl individual "life seed" capsules into random directions away from Earth.
Life seeds
The capsules are designed to protect the payload from burning up in the atmosphere when drawn toward a planet. Upon contact with a planet's atmosphere, the capsule heats up from friction and melts a layer of ice inside. Then when hitting the surface of the planet, the capsule (titanium or stainless steel) breaks and spills the water that cushions the blow. The inner part of the capsule that contains the microbes is still frozen. If the temperatures are right, the ice melts. If the conditions are favorable for any of the included microbial species, they come alive and hopefully start evolving.
From the salt of the earth, researchers have isolated and revived a Bacillus strain, which they believe is >250 million years old. If packed right, this should be enough time for life seed capsules to land somewhere.
Elon Musk's SpaceX maintains a fleet of thousands of Starlink satellites. Upon ending their mission the satellites will fall back to earth and dissintegrate. Elon Musk is a big proponent of saving life outside of Earth. Adding a life-seed launcher module to te Starlink satellites might be in line with the company's vision.

[1]Vreeland RH, Rosenzweig WD, Powers DW. Isolation of a 250 million-year-old halotolerant bacterium from a primary salt crystal. Nature. 2000 Oct 19;407(6806):897-900. doi: 10.1038/35038060. PMID: 11057666.

Creative contributions

"Safety valves" for the right conditions

jnikola Jun 29, 2022
The idea is great. What I would like to propose, in addition to your brilliant idea with ice that would melt if the temperature is good, are a series of "safety valves" that would release the microbes only if several few conditions were good enough for the life to be seeded. Here are some examples:
  • Oxygen valve - if the levels of oxygen (or any other gas necessary for life) are adequate, the valve releases the microbial life; in the shape of a small flame that tries to be light up (and for that you need oxygen)
  • Humidity valve - when the ice from the capsule melts, it uncovers a tiny humidor capsule that gets opened only if the humidity is right
  • UV valve - if the UV is too strong, it destroys the ozone inside the valve chamber, which creates a vacuum and shuts the capsule forever
Does it make sense to have these kinds of valves? Can you think of something more important?
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic2 years ago
I think this would make the capsules prohibitively expensive/heavy and provides no actual benefit. This is a numbers game. We need to shoot millions upon millions of capsules into all possible directions, repeatedly.
Once a capsule lands, if the conditions are not right, they aren't likely to get better and the capsule isn't moving anywhere after landing. Good thing they are disposable and maximally cheap.
An exception might be if the capsule lands on an icy world that turns into an ocean when the area faces the planet's star. But then, our capsule is already designed with that in mind. The inner layer only melts when the conditions are right.
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General comments

Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni2 years ago
It would be great if there was a way for us to know which capsules germinated. Each capsule could be marked with the direction that it was launched. The ones that germinate could inform us about planets that are livable.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic2 years ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni they can inform us after a few billion years of evolution:)
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jnikola2 years ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni Yes, I was worried about this, too. It would be great if there was a way to find out the destiny of each capsule, for both, the efficiency of the method and the space explorations.
Is there a way how something in space can send a strong signal to Earth?
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic2 years ago
Faultyproboscus on Reddit came up with a good reason why this idea is not feasible but then Jarfil came up with a solution that made it feasible again.
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Shireesh Apte
Shireesh Apte2 years ago
See the references under 'Directed panspermia' in the Panspermia Wikipedia article. It is not implausible that we ourselves are derived from alien life seed capsules - in which case, life is already present elswhere in the universe. In addition, despite efforts at sterility, it is highly probable that the Voyager space probes as well as Elon Musk's Tesla travelling through interstellar space are already contaminated with spores and/or bacteria, not to mention the moon landings and the Martian vehicles. There may already be starter bacteria/spores/viruses in space that we have launched knowingly or unkowingly.
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