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Terraforming Mars


Daymare17
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Does anyone have a good guide to what it would take to terraform Mars? I'm thinking of writing something about it. I've already looked into http://www.ibiblio.org/astrobiology/index.php?page=mars04, and am thinking of looking into the Red/Green/Blue Mars novels, I hear the science in them is very plausible.

 

Can you also just give me your thoughts on what terraforming Mars would take?

 

Thanks

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lots and lots of power and then some more power. need to genetically modify some plants so they are able to survive the conditions and then plant billions of them(i nominate YT for the plants, he likes gardening). heat up the polarcaps to melt them and then continue heating up the rest of the planet till around 17*C

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Kim Stanley Robinson's novels are excellent, but keep in mind that they are novels. He takes two liberties with the facts. He takes the most optimistic possible view of the amount of water that remains on Mars. I mean extremely optimistic. He assumes a far more rapid rate of terraforming than most would think credible. This is a literary device to allow him (along with anti-aging therapy) to keep his principle charcaters alive throughout the terraforming process.

That said the material is very well researched and the books are an excellent starting point. Google for background information on the concepts as they come up.

 

Until recently I would have argued for multiple cometary impact to provide an atmosphere and hydrosphere. Now, I'm not so sure. It seems that cometary impacts can actually result in a net loss of atmosphere. I need to wrestle with the maths to understand how certain this outcome is. Don't wait up!

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Heat isn't the problem. Its the heat escape thats the problem. There is very little atmosphere, so heat escapes like crazy. If you blow a nuke, all that heat will just diffuse away, out into space. To fix this, maybe introduce lots of greenhouse gasses, and then slllooowwwwlllyyy change that into the mix of earth's gases, by planting plants to get the oxygen, and beans to get nitrogen? I don't know about the nitrogen, are there nitrites in the soil like on earth?

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I read about the "asteroid/comet/nuke approach" and I must say I'm more inclined towards the greenhouse approach of Dr. Chris McKay. Mars' atmosphere is 0.01 times as thick as Earth's. This means that the solar heat doesn't stick around, which makes our neighbor planet cold, arid and generally unpleasant. To counter that, we can build greenhouse-factories on Mars, to spew out greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, trapping the sunlight and heating up the planet. Once temperature reaches -20 degrees C, the CO2 at the poles will melt, further accelerating global warming. I read a BBC article about how the scientists have already mapped out such a plan, where they will basically build factories on the surface to release a special compound of carbon, chlorine and fluorine that is a many dozen times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Everything seems locked and loaded. After all, it's not like humans are inexperienced in this matter :P.

 

Once the surface has been warmed up to above 0 degrees centigrade, oceans will form automatically, not so much from the melting poles (which have less than 1% as much ice as Earth's poles) as from the huge blocks of ice that scientists believe exist right under the rocky surface (when the ice comes up to the surface, it begins to sublimate into steam since the current temperature/pressure combo makes it impossible for liquid water to exist). When this happens Mars will become a blue planet. Then we can put genetically engineered bacteria into the water to produce oxygen, and after 25 years or so introduce the first plants.

 

Dr. McKay sets the minimum time necessary for warming up the planet as well as introducing bacteria and plants and createing a breathable atmosphere, to be 100 years. Within 100-200 years, humans would be able to walk on the surface of Mars with no equipment (except from atop Mount Olympus). I don't see why so many consider this wildly optimistic. After all, we are not talking about the automatic, planless processes of Mother Nature which created our own biosphere, but of concerted effort by the genius of mankind. What facts can you show to overturn this scheme?

 

One question: What does Earth need nitrogen for, other than keeping everything from going up in flames? What would be different if our atmosphere was 25% oxygen and 75% carbon dioxide, seeing as this appears to be the easiest outcome if we begin terraforming Mars? From what I can gather the scientists aren't sure whether there is nitrous soil.

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Since there is plenty of CO2 on Mars, all you need is plants that can survive under those conditions, and the oxygen will come form those plants.

 

The problem is that there's no liquid water. So it won't work unless you know of a plant that eats ice :D

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Presumably once you'd got some sort of greenhouse gases and the temperature rising, the water beneath the surface would start to melt, maybe even enough to get some rudimentary oceans back again. Nothing stopping us from carting over a load of water anyway, especially if we had a moon colony for an easy staging platform.

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how practical is that really though, even with a space elevator the cost of laucnhing 1 pound of water into space is $10, how many pounds of water would be needed to produce a measureable effect on the martian climate.

 

ALso if there is hydrogen and oxygen on mars, couldn't we make our own water there?

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CPL.Luke: on transporting water to mars, you have to view it as an investment for humanity. We invest an infinitesimal part of Earth's resources and gain - a second Earth. A pretty far-fetched idea that I thought up just now would be to have a giant space station orbiting Earth and connected to the Pacific ocean, with a hollow space elevator that continuously carts the water up to the station. From there you can fling it to Mars using rail guns combined with rockets. I remember reading about some kooky scientist who said that you could turn Mars into a water-world by mounting thousands of fusion drives on one side of Europa and physically pushing it into Mars. :D

 

I seriously doubt that any of this will happen, at least not in a positive way, under capitalism however. Capitalists can't organise Earth, how could they organise other planets? Earth would have to be organized under some form of democratic planned economy for this to be possible. Hell I'm sure we could terraform Mars just for the cost of the world's total military budget (=manufactured scrap metal). Just imagine if all the funds that go to the US Army and the CIA were redirected to NASA. Anyway, there's no point in turning 70% of Mars into ocean, after all humans do not live in water and we can easily irrigate the parts of the planet that are farthest from the oceans. All that's necessary for life to thrive is a temperature of 0-100 degrees C, the existence water and an Earth-like atmospheric pressure.

 

BigMoosie: Mars is definitely the most terraformable place in Sol system. Venus's atmosphere is so thick, 92 times Earth's, so it's 470 degrees plus there. So far there's been no serious suggestions for terraforming Venus. ibiblio.org comments: "Of course, science fiction has risen to the challenge. Authors such as Kim Stanley Robinson postulate that a huge solar 'parasol' could be placed in between Venus and the Sun, cutting all light off from the planet. Over hundreds of years, the temperature would plummet and the mainly carbon dioxide atmosphere would cool down, then rain and freeze on the surface. Once that was done, the carbon dioxide ice now on the surface could be processed by robots into carbon and oxygen. Finally (and most unbelievably) either the parasol would be opened slightly so that the temperature could be raised so the planet would be habitable and mirrors would be placed in orbit, or the planet would be spun up using magnetic induction so that it would have a shorter 'day'." (http://www.ibiblio.org/astrobiology/index.php?page=terraform01)

 

The galilean moons and Titan are a possibility far in the future, but they are so far from the Sun that you would need the energy of a thousand million fusion bombs to heat them up enough, I suppose the "greenhouse" method is a possibility there as well, I haven't really looked into it but it would be much, much harder than colonising Mars.

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Daymare:

 

Your idea about a hollow space elevator is interesting, I guess that once you pump water up to the end then the centrifuge will act like a giant syphon draining the ocean as much as we like for no energy input. But it would have to be a very narrow pipe because space elevators need a very high strength / density ratio.

 

You mention that Venus's atmosphere is too thick, well what if we were to apply your space elevator idea there? We could drain the atmosphere by attatching a giant chimney and letting it "fall" off, we could even attatch filters to stop whatever oxygen and nitrogen is present from leaving...

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I doubt it would work on Venus since its day is 243 earth-days long (longer than its year) so there i think wouldn't be that much centrifuge to speak of. Then again, if you had a million space elevators and a hundred thousand years... but then again with that technology there would probably be an easier way.

 

A hollow space elevator seems to have interesting properties. Could such an elevator be used as a de-facto perpetuum mobile? Letting the centrifuge, from planetary rotation, combined with the low pressure from the motion of the mass itself, move mass that powers a generator, and then letting the mass fall to the ground through another pipe, again utilizing its motion to produce energy. Not a very high output, but still, producing power with no constant input? A sort of "gas tank hose" power plant concept. What would be the catch?

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