Published on May 3rd, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie7
Terraforming Planet Mars: How To Create Another Home Planet
It will be perhaps the finest achievement of Mankind. Terraforming the planet Mars to make it a liveable place for humans represents the pinnacle of human growth.
We live in wonderful period in time. The conditions for life have never been so good in the Earth’s history. There are no heavy extra-terrestrial bombardments that pockmarked the surface of the Moon and other planets, including our own. We don’t live in an ice age and experience freezing temperatures like our ancestors had to endure.
We also have the privilege of having our Moon much farther away from us than was the case in the past. This means that we don’t have tidal waves that are several hundred feet high.
All of the above emphasis just how lucky we are and how grateful we should be for the period of time that we live in.
Like everything, this too shall pass and our current good fortune will not last forever.
The Colonisation Imperative
Our Sun is the main energy source in the entire Solar System, it is responsible for life on Earth. A yellow dwarf star, our Sun is middle aged and at its most stable. But many years from now, it will enter the second phase of its life and become a red giant. As it starts to run out of hydrogen it will expand and become hotter. Eventually it may swallow the Earth whole. But long before that its increased intensity will rip apart our atmosphere and our planet will become dead and lifeless.
Therefore, colonising other worlds will become a necessity as the Solar System’s habitable zone gets pushed out farther and farther.
The planet Mars is an ideal candidate to pour resources into terraforming the planet and making it habitable.
Terraforming Planet Mars
Making planet Mars habitable would be one of mankind’s greatest achievements. Landing on the Moon was a milestone in human history while setting foot on the surface of Mars would put this earlier feat in the shade, terraforming the Red Planet would pose an altogether more difficult challenge.
However, in theory we know that this can be achieved. The question is do we have the will to do it. In the future, when the Sun becomes both larger and brighter – our will undoubtedly will grow stronger if we have not already done so before.
Heating The Atmosphere And Surface
One of the first things that most be achieved is to heat up the planet. Right now, conditions are far too cold to support life on the planet Mars in any meaningful form. There are various different methods proposed to increase the temperature.
One would be to introduce more greenhouse gases into Mars’s atmosphere. This would gradually raise the temperature as infra-red radiation would be blocked as it rebounds off the surface.
The use of strategically placed mirrors orbiting planet Mars to direct more sunlight unto its surface would also help to increase temperatures. This would be particularly effective in melting the ice sheets which are largely composed of carbon dioxide.
A more ambitious method of introducing heat, something that lies beyond our current technology, is directing asteroids onto the surface of planet Mars. The enormous impacts would create large amounts of heat which, in turn, would raise the temperature of the atmosphere.
Although planet Mars is covered in ice water there may not be enough liquid water when the increased temperature melts all of the ice.
To combat this problem more water would have to be brought to the planet. This could be done by harvesting water from some of the icy moons that are scattered throughout the Solar System. One possible candidate is the dwarf planet Ceres.
Although it is questionable how such large masses of water could be transported to the Red Planet without affecting its orbit. Again like directing asteroids, this lies well outside the realm of out current technology.
One of the biggest problems with making planet Mars a planet capable of supporting life is that it has no magnetosphere.
Water is composed of oxygen and hydrogen. Hydrogen is the lightest of all the elements and as a result it travels very fast. Without the Earth’s magnetosphere and the ozone layer, our planet would have been stripped of much of its water by now.
Perhaps in the future we may be capable of creating an artificial magnetosphere.
Plants And Life-Giving Oxygen
Algae and plants are critical to produce oxygen on planet Mars. With the planet warmed up and a ready supply of liquid water, the next step in the Mars terraforming process would be to introduce oxygen into the atmosphere from plant life.
Algae would probably be used first. Feeding off planet Mars’s rich carbon dioxide environment, millions of tonnes of oxygen would be required to make Mars habitable like the Earth. After establishing algae, larger and larger plants would be grown until finally Mars would have trees just like the Earth.
All of these plants would provide the basis for life and once terraforming had reached this stage – planet Mars would be completely habitable. Slowly animals from Earth would be introduced so as not to upset the delicate balance.
To Planet Mars And Beyond
Once we have established a foothold on Mars we will have to set our sights on living in other places. The Sun’s relentless expansion will not stop and Mars eventually will become uninhabitable. But in the meantime we will have furthered our progress – our evolution. In time we will use the colonising of planet Mars as a stepping stone to greater things. We will move beyond the Solar System to other worlds – and we may look back upon Mars as the most critical step in our history.
Highly Recommended Reading
Check out Yellow Magpie’s The Planet Mars: Our Infatuation With The Red Neighbour, Mars’s Moons: The Oddness Of Phobos And Deimos, Mars’s Volcanoes: A Stunningly Mysterious World With Colossal Vents, The Planet Mars And The Valles Marineris: A Wonderland Of Canyons and The Red Planet And Water: Is There Life On Mars? for more in-depth insight into the Red Planet.
You may wish to take a gander at The Solar System And Beyond: A Guide To The Cosmos.
Cosmos is a highly recommended book. It contains large, full-page pictures of Mars and writing on the subject by the highly competent author, Giles Sparrow.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Cosmos from here.
For those who live in Canada, you can obtain: Cosmos here.
For Germany: Cosmos.
For France: Cosmos.