Locally targeted ecosynthesis: a proactive in situ search for extant life on other worlds

Astrobiology. 2013 Jul;13(7):674-8. doi: 10.1089/ast.2013.0995. Epub 2013 Jul 12.


The Viking landers conducted the only life-detection mission outside Earth nearly 40 years ago. We believe it is time to resume this proactive search for life and propose a new approach based on Locally Targeted Ecosynthesis (LoTE) missions: the engineering of local habitable hotspots on planetary surfaces to reveal any subdued biosphere and enhance the expression of its biological activity. LoTE missions are based on a minimum set of assumptions about life, namely, the need for liquid solvents, energy sources, and nutrients, and the limits imposed by UV and ionizing radiation. The most promising destinations for LoTE missions are Mars and Saturn's moon Titan. We describe two LoTE mission concepts that would enhance the unique environmental conditions on Mars and Titan to reveal a subdued biosphere easily detectable with conventional instruments by supplying biologically essential yet critically limited compounds and by engineering local habitable conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Ecosystem*
  • Life*
  • Space Flight*