Would it be possible to recreate planet Earth and it's ecosystem on a desolate planet that has with similar basic properties?

This planet has a similar temperature range to Earth, has no soil, only rock, but the rock and mineral deposits are of a similar type to ours. There's no life, no water, but it does have it's own gravitational pull.

Could I develop this to the point where I could recreate habitats, wildlife, and (obviously over a massive period of time) have these working together as a complete ecosystem in the same way Earth does?


To help with possible answers, this planet does have enough gravitational force to hold onto the heavier gases such as nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide. I'm working on the basis that we could transport unlimited amounts of material to this planet, ie water, oxygen, flora and fauna etc.

  • $\begingroup$ The fundamental gravity of this planet will have one of the biggest effects- holding together the atmosphere hence allowing liquid water to pool etc. After that, given the correct conditions, life definitely has a chance to flourish. $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2016 at 12:12
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    $\begingroup$ If it literally has NO WATER at all, then the answer is NO. There is no known kind of life that can exist without water. Step 1 is add water. $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2016 at 12:21
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    $\begingroup$ There's no known kinds of alien life either. Maybe that says more about the limits of our knowledge than it does about aliens. $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Oct 13, 2016 at 13:36

3 Answers 3


There is a word for what you are describing: Terraforming

This has been explored a great deal both in science fiction and in realistic scientific research, most noticeably the idea of teraforming mars is a very popular one.

There is a breakdown on the martian proposals here: Terraforming Mars

The main obstacles are atmosphere (you need enough of it), magnetosphere (to protect from solar radiation) and temperature (you need liquid water).

Even once you have managed to supply all of that (for example a sustained bombardment of icy comets might provide a start on an atmosphere and orbital mirrors might increase the temperature) you then need to get the balance of various gasses right.

This is where the various plant/bacteria mixes come in. A series of different life forms each introduced at the right stage to bring the atmosphere closer and closer towards the desired form.

It's a lot of work, you are talking centuries or longer and a massive investment in time and energy.

  • $\begingroup$ In the webcomic "Freefall", they mention this, althou secondary to the plot; a character is responsible for the introduction of bacteria, insects and lower lifeforms necessary to establish an ecosystem and terraform the planet. $\endgroup$ Oct 23, 2016 at 14:38

Probably, but we don't know how to do any of that yet.

Does your planet have an atmosphere? A magnetic field?

We'd likely start by introducing some lichens and bacteria which can eat minerals and excrete useful compounds and gasses. After a while more complex life forms (probably genetically altered) would be introduced which eat the output of the first, and produce new molecules as waste. Over time, and with lots of different types of bacteria and simple life forms you build up more and more organic compounds and material to work with, which lets you move to another phase of the operation.

Here's a article on the evolution of the Earths atmosphere which should be interesting, and shed some light on the processes: http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/lectures/Perry_Samson_lectures/evolution_atm/

Due to the time scales involved, unless we discover some amazing new tech to accelerate the process you're looking at such a long time that your ability to control and steer the process to completion is unlikely due to other factors (collapse of your civilization, etc).

Massive amounts of genetic and biosphere engineering will need to be developed before and during this project.

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    $\begingroup$ "There's no life, no water, " - Without water your answer is invalid. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Oct 13, 2016 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ Crash some watery comets into it first then. $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Oct 13, 2016 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ I left water off my planet purposely, because with water on the planet, there would be a likelihood that there would already be some developing life forms, even if only in bacterial form. $\endgroup$
    – AutoBaker
    Oct 13, 2016 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Innovine I think you've got a really solid point about introducing the lichens and bacteria, I was initially overthinking it and wondering how some life forms could be introduced without upsetting the balance. I guess we have to start where Earth was millions of years ago and take it from there. Thanks for the link too, I've read quickly and it's helpful, I've bookmarked for thorough reading this evening. $\endgroup$
    – AutoBaker
    Oct 14, 2016 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ It was pretty heavy reading, but googling the evolution of earths atmosphere gives a few more interesting hits. Googling the evolution of life gives more, and you can use that as a basis for ideas on how to speed up the process. The lack of water will be the first thing you need to address though I guess. The majority of history was spent on single cell processes, and its conceivable that we could engineer our way through that really quickly $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Oct 14, 2016 at 11:55

Do you have pre-rusted/oxygenated planet? ie: is it similar to Earth's current rocks, or similar to Earth's starting rocks?

It took ~2-3 billion years to create enough oxygen to rust the Earth's crust to allow free oxygen to be in the atmosphere. If you can transport unlimited oxygen to surface, you may be able to trim this time down; but doing it quickly will mean you'll always dumping oxygen in whenever the crust turns over until you reach the saturation point (on the order of millions of years - which means you'll have to be taking out gigatons of atmosphere and replacing with oxygen in order to maintain both the atmospheric pressure and contents at appropriate levels).

Traditionally, you would need life to create that oxygen from the carbon dioxide. Hard to protect that life from solar radiation without an ozone layer. Can't have the life without water.


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