Just suppose for a minute that life in the universe is quite rare, and that we fool ourselves in to thinking we must find signs of alien life “out there” soon simply because it’s so abundant on this planet. I believe that the spontaneous occurrence of an intelligent molecule with a phenomenal instinct for survival, capable of replicating and evolving, is an unusual event. And consider the consensus of scientific opinion that at some stage, in the far future, the earth will become uninhabitable due to the sun dying, or the earth over heating / cooling, massive meteorite strike, super volcano – whatever, and that when we exhaust our fossil energy reserves it will put greater demands on nuclear resources, which are also limited. The point is that if life expired on this planet, it might possibly be the end of life for a significant portion of the universe. But if we want to do anything about it, we are now at perhaps our most optimum position to do so.
Science fiction continually promotes the impression that in the future we will head off across the cosmos on a star ship, like the enterprise. But one of many obstacles would be that to continually sustain the crew, the star ship would have to take in tow a reasonable sized farm, along with livestock and of course an endless energy supply.
It is more likely that anyone leaving this planet for good would either freeze or starve before they came across another planet with an oxygen enriched atmosphere and a flourishing ecosystem.
The problem is that the astronauts are too big and too demanding. What are required are a large number of very small astronauts that can remain frozen for thousands of years, easily thawed out on arrival, and are then happy to live on a diet of rock. It is humbling to realise that the most appropriate delegation we could send to another planet would be made up of primordial microbes. Looking at the evolution of this planet, it is microbes that generated the atmosphere and conditions for the evolution of higher forms of plants and animals to survive. So if in a few billion years, we are better equipped for space travel we would have a better chance of finding somewhere habitable.
The scale of the problem can be summed up in that the once a suitable target was found, it would probably take in the order of a hundred thousand years to get there. That is how long the microbes would need to be sustained, then delivered as gently as possible on the new planet to face what ever environment happens to be there. Given a few billion years they might evolve into something more interesting. How hard can it be?
There is already a vast pool of relevant research out there. This project is about collating that information, and sponsoring research with a view to giving the best chances of propagation of life in the universe.