Artist's conception of the process of terraforming Mars; the final appearance of the planet is based on data from the Mars Global Surveyor.

Mars is the 4th planet from the Sun in our Solar System. It is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, Mars has surface features both of the Moon and the Earth. It is the site of Olympus Mons, (a good launch site for spaceship takeoff), the highest known mountain in the solar system, and Valles Marineris, the largest canyon (a great spot for habitation as planet's atmosphere would be densest in those areas). Mars’ rotational period and seasonal cycles are similar to those of Earth. It is the only planet other than Earth that has liquid Water on its surface, in the form of salty brines.

This was based on observations of seasonal changes in light and dark patches, dark striations were suspected to be channels for irrigation. Of all the planets in our solar system other than Earth, Mars is thought to be the most likely to harbor liquid water, and perhaps life. Observations indicate that small geyser-like water flows have occurred in recent years. Further observations by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor show evidence that parts of the southern polar ice cap have been receding. Mars may have a rise in temperature. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped. These may be captured asteroids.

Mars, like many other planets, can be easily seen from Earth with the naked eye. Even from the surface of Earth, Mars stil appears with a reddish color in the sky due to the iron oxide on its surface.

Physical CharacteristicsEdit

Mars, though close to Mercury's dimensions to the naked eye, falls a little short. Mercury has a higher density. This causes a slightly stronger gravitational force at Mercury's surface. The red-orange appearance of the Martian surface is caused by iron(III) oxide, more commonly known as rust. In comparison to Earth, Mars has half the radius and only one-tenth the mass of our planet. Mars' total surface area is only slightly less than the total area of Earth's dry land.

Terraforming ProcessEdit


Mars consists of much of the chemical materials needed to terraform, including abundant carbon dioxide, water (although not as much as on Earth), and oxygen, in the form of per-nitrates in the composition of the soil.[1] Because of the extremely low temperatures and pressures a lot of CO2 is frozen on the poles, most of the water is either frozen or in its gaseous phase and most of the oxygen is bound to the highly reduced metal-oxides on the Martian surface.

It is generally thought that Mars could once have had an environment relatively similar to today's Earth, during an early stage in its development. This similarity is predominantly associated with the thickness of the atmosphere and abundance of water, both considered to have been lost over the course of hundreds of millions of years. The exact mechanisms which resulted in this change are still unclear, though several mechanisms have been proposed. For instance, the gravity of Mars today indicates that lighter gases in the upper atmosphere would have contributed to this loss, with the atoms dissipating into space. The lack of plate tectonics on Mars today and in the past, indicated by the thorough examination of its surface features is another plausible factor, since this would cause the recycling of gases locked up in sediments back into the atmosphere to occur at a slowed rate. The lack of magnetic field and geologic activity may both be a result of Mars' 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.

Terraformed Mars

An updated artist's conception of what Mars might look like terraformed.

Changes RequiredEdit

Terraforming Mars would entail two or three major interlaced changes: building up the atmosphere and keeping it warm. The existing Martian atmosphere consists mainly of carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas, so once the planet begins to heat, more CO2 enters the atmosphere from the frozen reserves on the poles, adding to the greenhouse effect. This means that the two processes of building the atmosphere and heating it would augment one another, and make terraforming easier. However, a large scale, controlled application of certain techniques (explained below) over enough time to achieve sustainable changes would be required to make theory a reality. Another change that may need to happen is the restoration of the magnetosphere of Mars and due to this if a large solar wind were to occur, then all places not protected by Mars's magnetospere (most of the northen hemisphere and parts of the lower) would become as desolate as the Mars we know today.

Building the atmosphereEdit

There are many possible techniques of building an atmosphere with the right chemical constituents to make Mars habitable, and some are easier than others to implement. If a technique is too intricate and can't sustain itself without human intervention then it should not be considered.

Sulfur hexafluoride is the most likely candidate for artificial insertion into the Martian atmosphere because of its strong effect as a greenhouse gas. As the planet becomes warmer, so the CO2 on the polar caps sublimes into the atmosphere and contributes to the warming effect. The tremendous air currents generated by the moving gasses would create large, sustained dust storms, which would also contribute to the warming of the planet by directly heating (through absorbing solar radiation) the molecules in the air. Eventually Mars would be warm enough that CO2 could not solidify on the poles, but liquid water would still not be seen because the pressure would be too low.

After the heavy dust-storms subside, the warmer planet could conceivably be habitable to some forms of terran life. Certain forms of algae and bacteria that are able to live in the Antarctic would be prime candidates.[2] By filling a few of the rockets with algae spores and crashing them in the polar areas where there would still be water-ice, they could not only grow but even thrive in the no-competition, high-radiation, high Co2 and low pressure environment.

If the algae is successful in propagating itself around parts of the planet, this would have the effect of darkening the surface and reducing the albedo of the planet. By absorbing more sunlight, the ground will warm the atmosphere even more, and the atmosphere will have a new small oxygen contribution from the algae. This is still not enough oxygen for humans to breathe, but it's a step in the right direction.

At first, until there is enough oxygen in the atmosphere, humans will probably need nothing more than a breathing mask and a small tank of oxygen that they carry around with them. To contribute to the oxygen content of the air, factories could be produced that oxidize the metals in the soil, effectively resulting in desired crude metals and oxygen as a byproduct.[3]Also, by bringing plants with them (along with the microbial life inherent in fertile topsoil), humans could propagate plant life on Mars, which would create a sustainable oxygen supply to the atmosphere.

Another, more intricate method, uses ammonia as a powerful greenhouse gas, and it is possible that nature has stockpiled large amounts of it in frozen form on asteroidal objects orbiting in the outer solar system, it may be possible to move these (for example, by using very large nuclear bombs to blast them in the right direction) and send them into Mars's atmosphere.[4] Since ammonia is high in nitrogen (NH3) it might also take care of the problem of needing a buffer gas in 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.[5]

2D map of Mars terraformed

A 2D map of the hypothetical surface layout of a terraformed mars.

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.

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.Template:Fact 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.Template:Fact The methane could be vented into the atmosphere where it would act to compound the greenhouse effect.

Adding heatEdit

Adding heat and conserving heat present is a particulary important stage of this process, as heat from the sun is the primary driver of planetary climate. Mirrors made of thin aluminized PET film could be placed in orbit around Mars to increase the total insolation it receives.[6] This would direct the sunlight onto the surface and could increase the planet's surface temperature directly. The mirror could be positioned as a statite, using its effectiveness as a solar sail to orbit in a stationary position relative to Mars, near the poles, to sublimate the CO2 and contribute to the greenhouse effect.

Since long term climate stability would be required for sustaining a human population, the use of especially powerful greenhouse gases, possibly including Halocarbons, such as CFCs

Mars terraformed land

A photo of what the terraformed landscape on Mars might look like from the surface.

PFCs. A proposal to mine fluorine-containing minerals as a source of these gases is worth noting. This proposal is supported by the belief that since the quantities present are expected to be at least as common on Mars as on Earth, this process could sustain the production of sufficient quantities of optimal greenhouse compounds (CF3SCF3, CF3OCF2OCF3, CF3SCF2SCF3, CF3OCF2NFCF3) to maintain Mars at 'comfortable' temperatures, as a method of maintaining an Earth-like atmosphere produced previously by some other means.[7]

Changing the albedo of the Martian surface would also make more efficient use of incoming sunlight.[8] Altering the color of the surface with dark dust and soot (likely from both of Mars' moons, Phobos and Deimos, because they are dark in color and could be ground into dust while in space and then somewhat uniformly distributed across the Martian surface by "dropping" it onto Mars[9]), 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.

Another way to increase the temperature is to smash small cosmic bodies (asteroids) onto the Martian surface. The impact energy is released as heat and could evaporate Martian water ice to steam, which too is a greenhouse gas.

Kim Stanley Robinson's "Mars Trilogy" (Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars) has sunlight reflecting satellites to increase solar radiation. When they are destroyed the planet's atmosphere starts to freeze out again - the gains from being artificially boosted are lost. A possible solution to the loss of the extra heat gained would be to employ a reverse geothermal plant that pumps the heat from nuclear power stations deep into the regolith so that the thermal mass of the planet stores heat. Storage of heat in the lithosphere means that you are not relying on the atmosphere to be the backbone of life-support, it becomes an insulating blanket on a world that lacks the plate tectonics and associated mechanics found on Earth.

Dealing with radiationEdit

It is believed by some that Mars would be uninhabitable to most life-forms because of higher radiation levels. Without a magnetosphere, the sun is thought to have thinned the Martian atmosphere to its current state; the solar wind adding a significant amount of heat to the atmosphere's top layers which enables the atmospheric particles to reach escape velocity and leave Mars (effectively boiling off the 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 the lack of a magnetosphere would not seriously impact the habitability of a terraformed Mars. In the past, Earth has 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, 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.

In addition, the radiation isn't as harmful to living things as commonly believed. Living organisms adapt readily to their environments, and sometimes even change their environment to suit them. High radiation levels might be a shock at first, but it is likely that any adaptive species living on Mars would adapt to its new environment quickly enough to survive.

Orbiting Neodymium or Electro MagnetsEdit

If monazite proves as common on Mars as it is on earth it may be possible to create many thousand orbiting spherical neodymium magnets with 1 to 1.5 Tesla strength each connected to the other by a rod. Another way to make orbiting magnets is to create nine giant solid cylindrical rings fixed to Mars by space elevators at the equator, the rings would be coated in trillions of dollars worth of solar panels. Eight of the rings would be powering extremely strong electro magnets to create a magnetosphere, whilst the ninth ring would follow the equator and supply clean power to the planet.

Another way to induce a magnetosphere to ensure environment cycling, although requiring a much higher degree of precision, would be placing asteroids rich in iron equivalent to the earth-moon equation in orbital equilibrium around Mars to create core flex generating heat from within. This would mean stacking several small asteroids from the belt between Mars and Jupiter together to form a larger collection, which would create massive heat through induction, because of Mars' heavier metal center. The difficulty lies less in the collection but the placement. With every added asteroid the total "new" moon mass must be pushed further from Mars to correct for velocity and to tune for maximum field spin. Basically, if you glue a magnet onto an axle, and turn the axle, you create a spinning magnetic field, add pull side to side for generating heat through an ac current, and you'll have the soft molten core of a magnetosphere engine. By heating up the core with these asteroids would be able to create a magnetic field. You may also use huge coils on the surface to create a temporary electric field which will have to be powered by energy spectrums that are well beyond our technology.

Ceres and Vesta

An idea gaining traction in the terraforming community is the relocation of one or both of these bodies into Martian orbit. With diameters of 588 and 329 miles respectively this is no small feat, but current technology does offer at least one possibility. The proposal is assemble automated factories on the massive asteroids capable of carving chunks of ice from the surface and then launching them (via railgun) into a trajectory that will (in some years) bring them into contact with Mars.

Since both bodies orbit beyond Mars any slowing of their orbital speed will in fact cause them to very slowly orbit closer to the Sun, and therefore Mars. While each payload launched will have a nearly undetectable effect on bodies so large, the cumulative change over years can achieve the desired result.

Delivering ice and other volatiles to Mars is an added bonus, but the main benefit of putting Ceres into a low Martian orbit would be to hopefully restore the magnetic field of Mars through tidal forces. It is estimated that even though Ceres is about 1% as massive as our own Moon, that it would exert on Mars roughly seven times the gravitational force our Moon does on the Earth were it orbited just outside the Roche Limit due the the inverse Square Law of Gravity.

As a side note, Ceres is believed to be approximately 20% water ice by mass. This is an amount of water so large that were Ceres crashed into Mars only Olympus Mons would be dry land.

See also Edit

Venus, Mercury, Ceres, Europa

References Edit

  1. Lovelock, James and Allaby, Michael The Greening of Mars p.151
  2. 2
  3. 2
  4. 2
  5. 2
  6. Template:Cite web
  7. Template:Cite web
  8. Template:Cite web
  9. 2
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