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Encyclopedia > Terraforming of Mars
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Artists conception of the process of terraforming Mars

Since the origin of the idea of terraforming, or changing a planet's environment to produce a world that is habitable by humans, one of the primary subjects of study for potential terraforming has been the planet Mars. Image File history File links Circle-question. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1303x5140, 2615 KB) Side by side images en:User:Ittiz created to show what Mars might look like at various stages while being terraformed in vertical alignment. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1303x5140, 2615 KB) Side by side images en:User:Ittiz created to show what Mars might look like at various stages while being terraformed in vertical alignment. ... Artists conception of a terraformed Mars in four stages of development. ... Understanding planetary habitability is partly an extrapolation of the Earths conditions, as it is the only planet currently known to support life. ... Adjectives: Martian Atmosphere Surface pressure: 0. ...


There is some scientific debate over whether it would even be possible to terraform Mars, or how stable its climate would be once terraformed. It is possible that over geological timescales—tens or hundreds of millions of years—if not prevented, Mars could again lose much of its water and atmosphere, possibly due to the same processes that reduced it to its current state; however, geological time scales are far longer than those needed for terraforming or subsequent climate maintenance. A potential problem is that much of the gases in the atmosphere were permanently swept away. Gases from sources other than Earth or Mars would need to be gathered, as relying on what Mars had could be disastrous as if humans were not careful, Mars could lose what's left of its natural resources. Thus, relying on gathering frozen gases from space would be more practical.

Contents

Background

It is thought that Mars did once have a relatively Earthlike environment early in its history, with a thicker atmosphere and abundant water that was lost over the course of hundreds of millions of years. The exact mechanism of this loss is still unclear, though several mechanisms have been proposed. The relatively low gravity of Mars likely contributed to the loss of lighter gases to space. The lack of plate tectonics on Mars is another likely factor, preventing the recycling of gases locked up in sediments back into the atmosphere. The lack of a magnetosphere surrounding Mars may have allowed the solar wind to contribute to eroding the atmosphere, although that effect is also active on Venus, but has not prevented that planet from having far greater atmospheric pressure than Earth. The lack of magnetic field and geologic activity may both be a result of Mars's smaller size allowing its interior to cool more quickly than Earth's, though the details of such processes are still not precisely clear. However, none of these processes are likely to be significant over the typical lifespan of most animal species, or even on the timescale of human civilization, and the slow loss of atmosphere could possibly be counteracted with ongoing low-level artificial maintenance activities. The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century. ... A magnetosphere is the region around an astronomical object in which phenomena are dominated or organized by its magnetic field. ... The plasma in the solar wind meeting the heliopause The solar wind is a stream of charged particles (i. ... Adjectives: Venusian or (rarely) Cytherean Atmosphere Surface pressure: 9. ...


Terraforming Mars would entail two major interlaced changes: building up the atmosphere and heating it. Since a thicker atmosphere of carbon dioxide and/or some other greenhouse gases would trap incoming solar radiation, and increased heat would in turn increase erosion and chemical activities on the surface, resulting in more outgassing and evaporation, the two processes would augment one another. In order to meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article requires cleanup. ... Solar irradiance spectrum at top of atmosphere. ... Outgassing (sometimes called Offgassing, particularly when in reference to indoor air quality) is the slow release of a gas that was trapped, frozen, absorbed or adsorbed in some material. ...


Adding heat

Mirrors made of thin aluminized PET film could be placed in orbit around Mars to increase the total insolation it receives.[1] This would increase the planet's temperature directly, and also vaporize water and carbon dioxide to increase the planet's greenhouse effect. Directing such reflected sunlight near the polar caps would maximize the effectiveness of this method. Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate (boPET) polyester film is used for its high tensile strength, chemical and dimensional stability, transparency, gas and aroma barrier properties and electrical insulation. ... TOA and surface insolation, annual mean Insolation is the incoming solar radiation that reaches a planet and its atmosphere or, by extension, any object exposed to solar rays, such as watts per square meter of Sun-facing cross section, across the entire electromagnetic spectrum; most of that power is in...


While producing halocarbons on Mars would contribute to adding mass to the atmosphere, their primary function would be to trap incoming solar radiation. Halocarbons (such as CFCs and PFCs) are especially powerful greenhouse gases, and are stable for lengthy periods of time in atmospheres. They could be produced by genetically engineered aerobic bacteria[citation needed] or by mechanical processors scattered across the planet's surface. Halocarbon compounds are chemicals in which one or more carbon atoms are linked by covalent bonds with one or more halogen atoms: fluorine, chlorine, bromine or iodine. ... For other uses, see CFC (disambiguation). ... Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) are compounds derived from hydrocarbons by replacement of hydrogen atoms by fluorine atoms. ...


Changing the albedo of the Martian surface would also make more efficient use of incoming sunlight. Altering the color of the surface with dark dust, soot, dark microbial life forms or lichens would transfer a larger amount of incoming solar radiation to the surface as heat before it is reflected off into space again. Using life forms is particularly attractive since they could propagate themselves, once life forms exist that can survive and be metabolically active on Mars. Albedo is the ratio of reflected to incident electromagnetic radiation. ... Soot, also called lampblack, Pigment Black 7, carbon black or black carbon, is a dark powdery deposit of unburned fuel residues, usually composed mainly of amorphous carbon, that accumulates in chimneys, automobile mufflers and other surfaces exposed to smoke—especially from the combustion of carbon-rich organic fuels in the... For other things named Lichen, see: Lichen (disambiguation). ...


Thinking far into the future, (on the order of hundreds of millions of years) some scientists point out that the Sun will eventually grow too hot for Earth to sustain life, even before it becomes a red giant star. All main sequence stars brighten slowly throughout their lifetimes. As a result, Mars will warm up on its own, making terraforming easier. Alternatively, an already-terraformed Mars would provide an alternate home for humanity if Earth becomes uninhabitable (see Space and survival). The Sun (Latin: Sol) is the star at the center of the Solar System. ... This article is about Earth as a planet. ... According to the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, a red giant is a large non-main sequence star of stellar classification K or M; so-named because of the reddish appearance of the cooler giant stars. ... Hertzsprung-Russell diagram The main sequence of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram is the curve where the majority of stars are located in this diagram. ... Adjectives: Martian Atmosphere Surface pressure: 0. ... Space and survival is the relationship between space and the long-term survival of the human species and civilization. ...


Building the atmosphere

Artist's conception of a terraformed Mars centered on the Tharsis region. (credit: Daein Ballard)

Since ammonia is a powerful greenhouse gas, and it is possible that nature has stockpiled large amounts of it in frozen form on asteroidal sized objects orbiting in the outer solar system, it may be possible to move these (for example, by using very large nuclear thermal rockets for the purpose, using some of the ammonia itself as the reaction mass) and send them into Mars's atmosphere. Since ammonia is high in nitrogen (NH3) it might also take care of the problem of needing a buffer gas in the atmosphere. Impacting a comet onto the surface of the planet might cause destruction to the point of being counter-productive. Aerobraking, if an option, would allow a comet's frozen mass to outgas and become part of the atmosphere through which it would travel. It may be better to impact several smaller asteroids into the planet, both to build up the planet mass and to add to the atmosphere. Keeping these smaller impacts on their own will eventually build up the temperature as well as mass to both the planet and its atmosphere.[citation needed] In 1970 physicist Freeman Dyson proposed sending a self-replicating machine to Saturn's moon Enceladus, which in addition to producing copies of itself would also be programmed to manufacture and launch an enormous number of solar sail-propelled cargo spacecraft. These spacecraft would carry blocks of Enceladean ice to Mars.[2] Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 595 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (1294 × 1303 pixel, file size: 401 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) A concept of a terraformed Mars over the tharsis region. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 595 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (1294 × 1303 pixel, file size: 401 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) A concept of a terraformed Mars over the tharsis region. ... Ammonia is a compound with the formula NH3. ... In a nuclear thermal rocket a working fluid, usually hydrogen, is heated in a high temperature nuclear reactor, and then expands through a rocket nozzle to create thrust. ... General Name, Symbol, Number nitrogen, N, 7 Chemical series nonmetals Group, Period, Block 15, 2, p Appearance colorless gas Standard atomic weight 14. ... A buffer gas is an inert or nonflammable gas. ... Comet Hale-Bopp Comet West For other uses, see Comet (disambiguation). ... An artists conception of a spacecraft aerobraking Aerobraking is a technique used by spacecraft in which it uses drag within a planetary atmosphere to reduce its velocity relative to the planet. ... Outgassing (sometimes called Offgassing, particularly when in reference to indoor air quality) is the slow release of a gas that was trapped, frozen, absorbed or adsorbed in some material. ... Freeman John Dyson (born December 15, 1923) is a British-born American physicist and mathematician, famous for his work in quantum mechanics, solid-state physics, nuclear weapons design and policy, and for his serious theorizing in futurism and science fiction concepts, including the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. ... A simple form of machine self-replication The concept of self-replicating machines has been most notably advanced and examined by, Homer Jacobsen, Edward F. Moore, Freeman Dyson, John von Neumann and in more recent times notably K. Eric Drexler in his seminal book on nanotechnology, Engines of Creation. ... Atmospheric characteristics Atmospheric pressure 140 kPa Hydrogen >93% Helium >5% Methane 0. ... [5] Atmospheric characteristics Pressure trace, significant spatial variability [6], [7] Water vapour 91% [8] Carbon dioxide 3. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the solar system, named after the Roman god of war (the counterpart of the Greek Ares), on account of its blood red color as viewed in the night sky. ...


The need for a buffer gas is a challenge that will face any potential atmosphere builders. On Earth, nitrogen is the primary atmospheric component making up 77% of the atmosphere. Mars would require a similar buffer gas component although not necessarily as much. Still, obtaining significant quantities of nitrogen, argon or some other comparatively inert gas could prove difficult. A buffer gas is an inert or nonflammable gas. ... This article is about Earth as a planet. ... General Name, Symbol, Number nitrogen, N, 7 Chemical series nonmetals Group, Period, Block 15, 2, p Appearance colorless gas Standard atomic weight 14. ... General Name, Symbol, Number argon, Ar, 18 Chemical series noble gases Group, Period, Block 18, 3, p Appearance colorless Standard atomic weight 39. ...


Hydrogen importation could also be done for atmospheric and hydrospheric engineering. Depending on the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, importation and reaction of hydrogen would produce heat, water and graphite via the Bosch reaction.[citation needed] Adding water and heat to the environment will be key to making the dry, cold world suitable for Earth life. Alternatively, reacting hydrogen with the carbon dioxide atmosphere via the Sabatier reaction would yield methane and water.[citation needed] The methane could be vented into the atmosphere where it would act to compound the greenhouse effect. Presumably, hydrogen could be obtained in bulk from the gas giants or refined from hydrogen-rich compounds in other outer solar system objects, though the energy required to transport large quantities would be great. General Name, Symbol, Number hydrogen, H, 1 Chemical series nonmetals Group, Period, Block 1, 1, s Appearance colorless Atomic mass 1. ... The movement of water around, over, and through the Earth is called the water cycle, a key process of the hydrosphere. ... The Bosch reaction is a chemical reaction between carbon dioxide and hydrogen that produces elemental carbon (graphite), water and heat. ... The Sabatier process involves the reaction of hydrogen with carbon dioxide at elevated temperatures and pressures in the presence of a nickel catalyst to produce methane and water. ... Methane is a chemical compound with the molecular formula CH4. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ...


Simply thickening the Martian atmosphere will not make it habitable for Earth life unless it contains the proper mix of gases. Achieving a suitable mixture of buffer gas, oxygen, carbon dioxide, water vapor and trace gases will entail either direct processing of the atmosphere or altering it by means of plant life and other organisms. Genetic engineering would allow such organisms to process the atmosphere more efficiently and survive in the otherwise hostile environment.[citation needed] An iconic image of genetic engineering; this autoluminograph from 1986 of a glowing transgenic tobacco plant bearing the luciferase gene, illustrating the possibilities of genetic engineering. ...

Artist's conception of a terraformed Mars. This realistic portrayal is approximately centered on the prime meridian and 30 degrees north latitude, and a hypothesized ocean with a sea level at approximately two kilometers below average surface elevation. The ocean submerges what are now Vastitas Borealis, Acidalia Planitia, Chryse Planitia, and Xanthe Terra; the visible landmasses are Tempe Terra at left, Aonia Terra at bottom, Terra Meridiani at lower right, and Arabia Terra at upper right. Rivers that feed the ocean at lower right occupy what are now Valles Marineris and Ares Vallis, while the large lake at lower right occupies what is now Aram Chaos. (credit: Mathew Crisp).

Image File history File links Size of this preview: 600 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (4450 × 4450 pixel, file size: 6. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 600 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (4450 × 4450 pixel, file size: 6. ...

Building a shield against radiation

Another significant, and probably most over-looked aspect of terraforming Mars, would be the lack of a magnetosphere. The magnetosphere deflects most of the hard particulate radiation from the solar wind. Without some form of radiation protection, anyone on Mars would have prolonged exposure to an unhealthy amount of radiation every time a serious solar eruption occurred. Terraforming involves making life viable on another world, and so long as that life is going to be exposed to high levels of radiation it will not be desirable. The lack of a magnetosphere is also thought to have caused the Martian atmosphere to become as thin as it is in the first place, the solar wind adding a significant amount of heating to the atmosphere's top layers which enables the atmospheric particles to reach escape velocity and leave Mars (more or less boiling off the newly formed atmosphere). Indeed, this effect has even been detected by Mars-orbiting probes. Venus, however, shows that the lack of a magnetosphere does not preclude an atmosphere. A thick atmosphere will also provide radiation protection for the surface, as it does at Earth's polar regions where aurorae form, so in the short term the lack of a magnetosphere would not seriously impact the habitability of a terraformed Mars. The plasma in the solar wind meeting the heliopause The solar wind is a stream of charged particles (i. ... A solar flare from NASA A solar flare is a violent explosion in the Suns atmosphere with an energy equivalent to tens of millions of hydrogen bombs. ... The plasma in the solar wind meeting the heliopause The solar wind is a stream of charged particles (i. ... Space Shuttle Atlantis launches on mission STS-71. ... Adjectives: Venusian or (rarely) Cytherean Atmosphere Surface pressure: 9. ... Aurora borealis Aurora borealis The aurora is a glow observed in the night sky, usually in the polar zone. ...


On a longer timescale, and with the technology of the near future (in perhaps 250-500 years), an artificial magnetosphere seems possible: If the energy of several large fusion power stations is used to power large superconducting magnets - the field should be strong enough to protect at least local settlements. However, recent scientific evidence suggest that just a thick enough atmosphere like Earth's is enough to create a shielding effect in the absence of a magnetosphere. In the past, Earth regularly had periods where the magnetosphere changed direction and collapsed for some time. Some scientists believe that in the ionosphere, a magnetic shielding was created almost instantly after the magnetosphere collapsed[3], a principle that applies to Venus as well and would also be the case in every other planet or moon with a large enough atmosphere. The deuterium-tritium (D-T) fusion reaction is considered the most promising for producing fusion power. ... Superconductivity is a phenomenon occurring in certain materials at low temperatures, characterised by the complete absence of electrical resistance and the damping of the interior magnetic field (the Meissner effect. ... Relationship of the atmosphere and ionosphere The ionosphere is the uppermost part of the atmosphere, distinguished because it is ionized by solar radiation. ... Adjectives: Venusian or (rarely) Cytherean Atmosphere Surface pressure: 9. ...


See also

Mars Mars is the focus of much speculation and serious study about possible human colonization. ... Artists conception of a terraformed Venus. ... Total Recall is an American science fiction film released on June 1, 1990, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Ronald Shusett, Dan OBannon, Jon Povill and Gary Goldman. ... Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ...

References

  1. ^ Terraforming Mars: A Review of Research (htm). Retrieved on 2006-04-28.
  2. ^ Dyson, Freeman J. (1979). Disturbing the Universe. New York: Harper and Row, 194-204. 
  3. ^ Real Media file (RM). Retrieved on 2006-03-10.

For the Manfred Mann album, see 2006 (album). ... is the 118th day of the year (119th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... For the Manfred Mann album, see 2006 (album). ... March 10 is the 69th day of the year (70th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Terraforming Mars and Venus Using Machine Self-Replicating Systems (SRS) (3168 words)
Terraforming via SRS involves the deposition of a small "seed" unit near the surface of the body to be altered, which then self-replicates into a giant factory complex capable of undertaking permanent modification of the target environment.
Terraforming is a theoretical concept in which a planetary environment with otherwise inhospitable conditions for human life is purposefully and artificially altered so that people may live there with little or no life support equipment.
SRS terraforming is a well-ordered physical habitat for man. In essence the entire surface of the planet will have been excavated to a mean depth of about 4 m.
Terraforming - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (5728 words)
Terraforming (literally, "Earth-shaping") is the theoretical process of modifying a planet, moon, or other body to a more habitable atmosphere, temperature, or ecology.
Fogg designates Mars as having been a biocompatible planet in its youth, but not being in any of these three categories in its present state, since it could only be terraformed with relatively greater difficulty.
Terraforming involves making life viable on another world, and so long as that life is going to be exposed to high levels of radiation it will not be desirable.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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