Firstly, my apologies if this is in the wrong forum.
Secondly, my apologies if this has been answered many times already and I failed to find it. When I searched the forums a lot of hits came up for "bacteria", and searching all of those threads became overwhelming task. If another member recalls a previous discussion and could point me in the correct direction, I would greatly appreciate it.
I was recently reviewing this thread:
and the topic of terraforming bacteria was discussed. In my quick perusal, many posts were made about the use of bacteria for terraforming, yet no one discussed how this concept was actually to be accomplished.
I should point out that I am a biochemist, and as such, I have some background on how microorganisms behave. And yes I am aware that some Pseudomonas strains have shown resistance to particle radiation, and are capable of surviving (not to be confused with proliferating) in active pool-type reactors. And yes, I am aware that other species have fairly high resistance to UV radiation, etc, etc.
However, what is bothering me is a perceived misconception from what I have read from other threads with regards to the capabilities of the super strains that are expected to complete their terraforming tasks - releasing water, providing an initial atmosphere, and building a base biosphere, etc. In the sense of this terraforming, I am contemplating Mars or the Earth's moon, as I really don't know much about the physical characteristics of the different planets, and these two bodies seem to be the potential target of most of the discussion around terraforming.
It seems to me that the task would have to be performed in phases. As the environmental conditions evolve on the target, the capabilities of the organisms required would need to be adjusted, likely by introducing a newer species to continue (or inactivate) a task of a previous organism, or initiating a secondary objective. Initially the species would be required to be tolerant to particle bombardment, UV exposure, wildly fluctuating temperatures, dehydration, amongst the harshest conditions. No single species is going to be able to "Do It All". The issue of preventing over-proliferation of a terraforming species must be addressed. Post-seeding mutation may also have to be addressed - especially in the case of inactivating a prior species.
Secondly, although it may seem elementary to some genetic engineering, in it's current state, is not simply a case of inserting the genes with the desired characteristic, and selecting for the expression. Gene insertion (and activation) is usually performed with species that are receptive to the anticipated change, with the "host" maintaining the characteristic that preselected if for engineering (e.g. in the case of initial terraforming, protective qualities). Gene insertion or substitution, can give expected and/or undesirable results, which may not be initially evident.
Additionally, while it is well established that some species can survive a vacuum and other environmental parameters that would be encountered in a terraforming scenario, the posts I have read have failed to acknowledge that there is a substantial difference between organism survival and organism proliferation. The topic of endospores and eukaryotic spore formers has popped up here, but nowhere did I see it mentioned that spore formation is a defensive mechanism for the organism. Just because an organism is capable of protecting itself, in no uncertain terms should it imply that it is capable of reactivation/replication/environmental interaction while in it's defensive state. Currently, this is simply not the case. Reactivation, occurs in favorable conditions only. While there are species currently living on Earth which can survive, and in some cases flourish, in environments that far exceed the normal range of parameters needed for human survival, I know of none that would be candidates for engineering for flourishing in these harshest of environments.
Now to my question(s).
Is there any knowledge here of reputable work being done, or potential strategies, to address these issues? Is it at this time, a case of we will wait until future technology can better accommodate a solution?
Thanks in advance for any responses.