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"Science fiction is really sociological studies of the future, things that the writer believes are going to happen by putting two and two together."
- Ray Bradbury

Scooter  
  Biotechnology working to bring you a better solar system - a creepy crawly created to do terraforming work on Jupiter's moon.  

No nanoparticles for Benford; he wants real creepy crawlies, which fit into his picture of a sort of dilapidated moon (of Jupiter) in the middle of being worked on by some ill-paid workers. Given the extreme conditions, no terrestrial life will be able to survive. In the future, it is possible that biotechnology may have the answer in the form of genetically altered Earth life forms.

Bioengeering had put out a spec report on the long crawly things five months back. Scooters had been designed to soak up ammonia-based compounds and digest them into oxy-available ones.
From Against Infinity, by Gregory Benford.
Published by Simon and Schuster in 1983
Additional resources -

The scooters also make an interesting contrast with the Aleph, the mysterious object that is trundling along the surface on a mission of it's own.

This novel has a theme similar to Arthur C. Clarke's Rendevous with Rama, which also explores the indifference of alien intelligence to human life and values.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Against Infinity
  More Ideas and Technology by Gregory Benford
  Tech news articles related to Against Infinity
  Tech news articles related to works by Gregory Benford

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  - Tumblin' Tumbleweeds Lend Hand In Depleted Uranium Roundup
  - Cleaning Up Chernobyl With Beets
  - GMO Houseplant Cleans Your Air

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